Matt Lauer’s former Today show co-anchor Ann Curry, appearing on CBS News’ rival morning show Wednesday, accused Lauer and NBC management of fostering a pervasive “climate of verbal sexual harassment” against women during her 15 years at the Peacock network.
The 61-year-old Curry, who was fired from the morning show in 2012—allegedly at the direction of the internally powerful Lauer, who denied involvement in Curry’s public firing—added: “I can tell you that I’m not surprised by the allegations” of sexual misconduct against her erstwhile Today co-host.
“What do you mean by that, Ann?” asked Gayle King, who grilled the former NBC newswoman along with her CBS This Morning co-hosts, Norah O’Donnell and John Dickerson. “You heard things? You knew things? What does that mean?”
Curry began to answer and then shook her head and dodged. “Now I’m walking down that road—I’m trying not to hurt people. I know what it’s like to be publicly humiliated. I never did anything wrong to be publicly humiliated and I don’t want to cause that kind of pain to somebody else.”
Yet Curry continued: “But I can say that—because you’re asking me a very direct question—I can say that I would be surprised if many women did not understand that there was a climate of verbal harassment that existed. I think it would be surprising if someone said they didn’t see that. It was verbal sexual harassment.”
An NBC News spokesperson offered no response to Curry’s accusation; Lauer, of course, was fired in late November by NBC News Chairman Andy Lack, who, along with other news division and Today show executives, was not in charge when Curry was experiencing her troubles there.
Curry’s comments came amid an on-air discussion about a “power imbalance” in the workplace that allows men to demean women and diminish their roles.
As Curry nodded in apparent agreement, O’Donnell chimed in: “She just said verbal sexual harassment at NBC at the time.”
“Boy,” Curry responded. “I don’t want to cause more pain… You’re asking me a very direct question. I’m an honest person. I wanna tell you that it was, yes. Period.”
King then asked Curry if Lauer, “a powerful man, derailed your career… Many people thought that Matt Lauer was behind your leaving the Today show. I’d like to know what you feel about that… Your last day was very emotional. It was very difficult for you, clearly. And I don’t want to upset you here again either.”
“Oh, don’t worry, I’m not gonna start crying,” Curry replied, to general laughter at the table, and then parried King’s question about Lauer’s effect on her termination.
“You should ask someone else,” Curry said. “I’m not the one to ask about that.”
“You’re the only one to ask,” King insisted.
“No, no. Because I don’t know what was all behind it,” said Curry, notwithstanding that NBC News executives at the time suspected her of orchestrating an under-the-radar campaign that ultimately helped damage Lauer’s standing with viewers. “I do know it hurt like hell. It wasn’t a fun moment. I’ve learned a great deal about myself. I really at this point let it go. I’ve just let it go. It’s been years, and I want to really move on from that.”
Curry went on: “The real question is what are we going to do with all of this anger. And it’s not just obviously about where I used to work. It’s not about where you are now working. It’s about the problem that’s pervasive across industries in workplaces across America…
“I wonder, if we keep focusing on these individual scandals, are we actually going to move off of that foot into creating something better in the future,” Curry added. “I don’t know a single woman who has not endured some form of sexual harassment, and many women have endured workplace sexual harassment. It’s happened to me in multiple jobs, and it’s a way of sidelining women. It’s ultimately not only bad for the women, it’s bad for the companies, and it’s bad for our nation, because it’s a limiting of people.”
Dickerson asked: “How does that change? Does that mean more women executives?”
“Absolutely, John,” Curry replied. “Until the glass ceiling is broken, until the balance of power is even… then the culture that we’re talking about, that enables the diminishing of women, will continue.”
Curry, who was submitting to her first television interview since she left NBC three years ago, was ostensibly appearing on CBS to promote her upcoming PBS series, We’ll Meet Again, in which survivors of traumatic moments in history get back together and relive and try to make sense of their ordeals.
Which, in a way, is what Curry was doing this morning.