When a tearful Ann Curry announced that she was leaving The Today Show in 2012 her departure no doubt came as a shock to some fans. But it would seem that things weren’t quite as they appeared behind the scenes of the flagship morning TV show. And years after she left, Curry finally revealed precisely what had been going on in the lead-up to her dismissal.
Prior to her appointment as a Today co-anchor Curry had spent over three decades honing her skills as a reporter and journalist. Over that time, she covered a range of important stories from conflicts to climate change, and practically everything in between. And one thing she became particularly good at was telling her story through a humanitarian angle.
So after more than 13 years working as a reporter for the NBC show, Curry’s promotion to Today co-anchor must have felt like a just reward for her years of loyal service. It should have been a dream position for the news-hungry journalist. But little did she know when she accepted the post that it would turn out to be something of a nightmare.
Curry was born in Guam in November 1956 to parents Bob Curry and Hiroe Nagase. Her father had been in the U.S. Navy and he had met her mother during World War II while he was stationed in Japan. She was the daughter of a local rice farmer but was working on a streetcar when she met her future husband.
Curry’s father returned to Japan to marry Nagase after the war. They started a family, with Curry being the eldest of five children. Naturally, because Bob was a military man the clan moved regularly. So much so, in fact, that in her youth Curry never spent more than two years at one school. Among the places she lived were California, Guam, Hawaii, Japan and Oregon.
The family eventually settled in Ashland, OR, and it was here that Curry completed high school. Curry’s family were not wealthy, and she encountered difficulties due to her mixed-race heritage. But it seems her parents were eager to install a sense of resilience in their children. To give one example, her father made Curry and her siblings do ten push-ups whenever they complained “That’s not fair,” no matter where they happened to be at the time.
From a young age, it seems that Curry was politically engaged. She would debate the Vietnam War with her father over the dinner table. She was skeptical of the role America was playing in the conflict. And while her veteran dad didn’t always agree with her point of view, Curry sensed that he liked how she cared about the bigger issues at play in the world.
In a self-penned piece for the Guideposts organization in 2010 Curry revealed how her father had told her, “Do something of service, Ann. So that at the end of your days, you’ll know your time here mattered.” That’s why she decided to become a journalist. But her path to success wouldn’t be easy.
Because her family were not wealthy, in 2003 Curry told the University of Oregon’s student newspaper Flash that college had seemed like “an impossible dream.” But with the support of her parents, some small scholarships, many part-time jobs and sheer determination, Curry made the seemingly impossible possible.
Curry graduated with a degree in journalism in 1978, and she soon secured an internship with KTVL in Medford, OR. Despite this, when she came to apply for a reporter role with the local TV station she was told that women weren’t up to the job because “they lacked good news judgement”.
But the tenacious Curry wasn’t going to let such casual misogyny stop her. She was able to convince her producer to give her a chance to become KTVL’s first female TV journalist. From there, she moved on to positions in bigger cities such as Portland, and then Los Angeles. She then joined NBC News in 1990, going on to host shows including NBC News Chicago, NBC News at Sunrise, Dateline NBC and NBC Nightly News.
From the mid-1990s Curry was also a regular contributor to The Today Show. First she served as a fill-in for anchor Matt Lauer, before becoming a news anchor in her own right. Curry was then promoted to co-anchor of Today in June 2011, but her stint in that role was short-lived, lasting little over a year.
Though her time fronting Today was relatively short, Curry proved a firm favorite with some fans of the show. She was particularly revered for her journalistic integrity, a quality she had honed over her years of reporting. In fact, throughout her career she’s earned a total of seven Emmys and the prestigious Medal of Valor from the Simon Wiesenthal Center, among other reporting accolades.
Not only that, but throughout her career Curry has never been afraid to take on the weightier news stories. She’s covered conflicts all over the world, including in Iraq and Afghanistan and has reported on nuclear tensions in Iran and North Korea. But the reporter’s real skill appears to be her ability to put a human slant on whichever story she takes on.
Through her work Curry has shone a light on a number of humanitarian crises throughout the world. She reported on the devastating tsunamis that shook South East Asia and Japan in 2004 and 2011, respectively. What’s more, some claim that her work during the Haiti earthquake of 2010 helped to accelerate the arrival of humanitarian aid.
With all this in mind, Curry’s appointment as a Today co-anchor in 2011 should have been the climax of an already-impressive journalism career. But sadly, it turned out to be one of her low points. That’s because she was unceremoniously dropped from the role after just one year.
Curry’s dismissal from The Today Show came amid reports of dwindling ratings. In a bid to explain the stagnating viewer levels, producers allegedly pointed to a lack of chemistry between Curry and her co-host Lauer. For months, rumors circulated that it was the female anchor who would pay the price; eventually she was indeed fired.
So on June 27, 2012 Curry announced that she was making her final appearance on Today as she sat beside Lauer. Fighting back tears, the anchor told viewers, “Today is going to be my last morning as a regular co-host of Today. I will still be part of The Today Show family but I’m gonna have a new title and a new role.”
Curry added, “This is not as I expected, to ever leave this couch, after 15 years [at NBC]. But I am so grateful, especially to all of you who watch. because Matt and I and everyone who sits on this couch we often call ourselves a family, but you are the real Today Show family. You are why I have ventured into dangerous places and interviewed dictators.”
Curry continued her emotional farewell with an apology to her fans. She said, “For all of you who saw me as a ground-breaker I’m sorry I couldn’t carry the ball over the finish line, but man, I did try. And so to all of you who watch, thank you from the bottom of my heart for letting me touch yours.”
After leaving the The Today Show sofa, Curry stayed on at NBC working as correspondent at national and international levels. She also returned to Today as an anchor at large. This role saw Curry tackle some major exclusive interviews, and she memorably quizzed Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in 2013.
Curry eventually left NBC in 2015. In a statement issued at the time she said, “I am sincerely grateful to NBC News for allowing me to offer viewers a vast and diverse body of work. It has been a privilege to work with so many good and talented people at the network and I look forward to what we will do ahead.”
It wasn’t until three years after her NBC exit that Curry opened up about her departure from Today for the first time. She did so in an interview with People magazine in January 2018. Recalling the pain her dismissal from the show caused, the reporter revealed, “It hurt like hell.”
But Curry added that leaving the show came with some positives. She explained, “It hurt so much, but I learned a lot about myself. I can say I’ve done nothing wrong. I’ve been honest and true. I’ve tried to stay pure. I’ve tried to not respond in a knee-jerk manner, and I’ve stayed very close to who I am. So it hurt, but I’m also proud of myself.”
Curry also revealed why she’d chosen not to comment about her exit from Today up until that point. She explained, “Experience has taught me, as a journalist, the number-one thing you have to be is humble. It’s not about you.” In any case, she said she had no feelings of resentment towards her former employees at NBC.
In her interview with People Curry expanded on her comments, saying, “I’m not going to say it wasn’t hard. But I had to let go. And I learned that when you not only let go but open your arms wide and learn the lessons that an experience – no matter how bad – can teach you, that’s when you rise.”
Though she didn’t address it in her interview, Curry’s comments came two months after her former co-anchor Lauer was fired from Today following allegations of sexual misconduct. A number of women had accused the reporter of several misdeeds including indecent exposure, making vulgar sexualized comments and trying to gift a sex toy.
In a statement given to newspaper The Washington Post in 2018 Lauer responded to the allegations. He said, “I fully acknowledge that I acted inappropriately as a husband, father and principal at NBC. However I want to make it perfectly clear that any allegations or reports of coercive, aggressive or abusive actions on my part, at any time, are absolutely false.”
But it seems that Lauer failed to shake the rumors. In his 2019 book Catch and Kill Ronan Farrow exposed the alleged circumstances behind the anchor’s dismissal from Today. It was claimed that he had raped a younger colleague during the Sochi Olympics in 2014. Lauer responded through an opinion piece on website Mediaite in which he said that he’d been “falsely accused of rape.” He added that his “relationship with a fellow employee” had been “consensual.”
Amid the controversy it emerged that Curry was among the handful of powerful NBC employees who didn’t attempt to protect Lauer. In 2018 she said that one of her co-anchor’s accusers had told her about his inappropriate behavior. Curry told The Washington Post, “I told management they had a problem and they needed to keep an eye on him and how he deals with women.”
But it seems that Curry’s attempted whistleblow on Lauer’s alleged behavior had put her between a rock and a hard place. She was eager to keep her source’s identity confidential, but Lauer later accused her of making vague accusations. Following her attempt to lift the lid on her co-anchor’s reported misconduct, it’s been claimed that Curry was forced out of The Today Show.
But perhaps Curry’s stint at the helm of Today was doomed from the off. Brian Stelter said as much in his 2013 book Top of the Morning: Inside the Cutthroat World of Morning TV. In it, he claimed that Curry felt “undermined” by “the boys’ club atmosphere” she encountered behind the scenes on the show.
Stelter also claimed that Curry told those close to her that her last months on Today were akin to “professional torture.” Apparently, executive producer Jim Bell made a blooper reel containing the anchor’s gaffes. Another time, Bell was said to have brought staff members into his office to show them another of Curry’s mistakes. It should be stated that he has denied both these accusations.
Other allegations outlined in Stelter’s book include boxes of Curry’s possessions being moved into a coat closet, as though she’d already been given her marching orders. Elsewhere, one staff member claimed, “a lot of time in the control room was spent making fun of Ann’s outfit choices or just generally messing with her.”
On one occasion, Curry was reportedly made the butt of the joke after she wore a bright-yellow dress. Some of her more critical colleagues compared the look to Big Bird. Curry was then allegedly Photoshopped into an image next to the Sesame Street character and staff members were asked to choose “Who wore it best?”
Amid a decline in ratings, it was apparently decided that Curry had to go. But it was put to Today producers that firing the host would be like “killing Bambi.” The name apparently stuck and a plan was allegedly devised to oust Curry from the show under the code name “Operation Bambi.”
Operation Bambi seemingly culminated in Curry’s tearful final appearance on The Today Show. And despite the rumors that swirled in the wake of her exit, the reporter had avoided showing any outward ill-will to her former employees or colleagues. Her dignified approach appeared in keeping with her journalistic approach to avoid gossip and focus on the bigger picture.
Revealing her approach to her work, in September 2020 Curry told Elle magazine, “In so many ways, [I’ve had to be] like water between rocks. To figure out the path that might help some and not hurt others.” And never has this been more evident than in how Curry conducted herself following her firing from Today and the controversy surrounding the show since.
Curry has previously acknowledged a “climate of verbal sexual harassment” at NBC. But she told Elle, “I have no interest in hurting people; my only interest is in figuring out if I can help. I was in a position where, as a reporter, I was unable to talk about it. I was asked, ‘Please keep this to yourself.’ I kept that confidence, as I should have. That was tough.”
So while Curry admits that the way she left Today “still hurts,” it seems she has few regrets about her time on the show. At the end of the day, she still wasn’t sure why things had to end the way they did. She explained, “I still don’t really understand. I know I did nothing wrong. I know I was good at my job.”