Ann Curry Was The Victim Of A Powerful Boys’ Club
5:28 pm, April 23rd | by Meredith Lepore
According to a stunning new New York Magazine editorial, Ann Curry’s last days at the Today show were tougher than the opening scene in Saving Private Ryan. Everyone in America knew it was bad when Ann made her tearful goodbye and wouldn’t let Matt even hug her, so imagine what it was like to actually work there. The detailed NYMag article by Joe Hagan paints a picture of a powerless Ann stuck in the middle of an established boys’ club, led by Executive Producer Jim Bell and anchorman Matt Lauer.
It seemed that there was an expectation that she would fail, or rather that producers were rooting for her to fail. Hagan claims that she really got the anchor spot through process of elimination — it wasn’t given specifically to her like with Meredith Viera or Katie Couric — and the person who wanted her there the least was Lauer, her TV partner.
Critics constantly talked about a lack of chemistry between Lauer and Curry. His past work marriages, so to speak, with Katie Couric and Meredith Viera had been blissful, but Ann was not giving it up. Except Ann now is calling bullsh*t on this chemistry theory.
In his new book Top of the Morning: Inside the Cutthroat World of Morning TV, Brian Stelter reports on the events that led to her June 2012 departure. “Curry felt that the boys’ club atmosphere behind the scenes at Today undermined her from the start, and she told friends that her final months were a form of professional torture,” Stelter wrote.
And the fact that The New York Times reported on her exit before she even knew about it couldn’t have helped. She had no chance at a graceful exit, only public humiliation.
From The Daily Beast:
“Curry was bullied in the office and felt that the “boys’ club atmosphere behind the scenes at Today undermined her from the start.” Stelter describes Today show executive producer Jim Bell commissioning a blooper reel of Curry’s “worst on-air mistakes,” though Bell now denies this. After being discouraged from taking the co-anchor office next to Matt Lauer, Curry moved in anyway, but boxes of Curry’s things ended up in a coat closet even before she was ever ousted. And the mostly male control room staff spent “a lot of time” making fun of Curry’s often colorful and strange outfit choices, once even going so far as to print a side-by-side photo of Big Bird and Curry in a yellow dress. “Who wore it best?” the paper asked.
She wasn’t even allowed to have the office she was promised? Can you imagine? How could you perform well if you never felt like you were wanted?
The style issue with Ann has also been brought up a lot since last June. She was apparently criticized for dressing too brightly and feminine, wearing flats and not covering up her grey hair. She told The Ladies Home Journal right before she was fired, “One day I wore a multicolored dress [on Today] and someone asked if I was trying to be Toucan Sam,” she said. “But I chose it because I thought, ‘This will perk up America.’ I’m encouraged by my bosses to wear these ridiculously high-heel shoes because women say, ‘I love your shoes!’ So if it makes women happy, I’ll wear them. But I’m still going to be me.”
Hey, you know who has a lot of grey hair? Matt Lauer. But that wouldn’t do for the female anchor of Today. But don’t worry Ann, you’re not alone. A recent UK survey found that more than 50% of executive women dye their hair, compared with just 3% of men. The survey comments included: “Grey hair makes a businessman look distinguished but just makes a woman look old.” In the U.S., of the 93 women in Congress, only five have grey hair and of the 15 female executives of Fortune 500 companies, no one has grey hair — or rather, has allowed it to be grey.
Executive Producer Jim Bell also took members of the Today staff out to lunch only hours after Ann’s very sad goodbye. “One observer said that he led the group in raising wine glasses to toast her departure,” Stelter writes. “The next day [Savannah] Guthrie’s appointment would be announced. Operation Bambi was complete.”
It’s great to see Ann wearing her hair the way she wants now, but it is sad that she was ever scrutinized that much for her personal choices and made to feel so bad about every move she made. She is a great journalist and reporter who was completely abused — and when she got forced out, she took most of the blame.