Just how unbearable was Today for Ann Curry in the months leading up to her exit? According to an excerpt published by the New York Times from Brian Stelter’s new book Top of the Morning: Inside the Cutthroat World of Morning TV, Curry told friends “her final months were a form of professional torture.”
One staff person recalled that “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 memorable spring morning, Curry wore a bright yellow dress that spawned snarky comparisons to Big Bird. The staff person said that others in the control room, which included 14 men and 3 women, according to my head count one morning, Photoshopped a picture of Big Bird next to Curry and asked co-workers to vote on “Who wore it best?”
When Curry finally made her tear-filled departure from Today she looked a bit like a deer caught in the headlights, which may have been appropriate, considering the plan to oust her had been reportedly nicknamed “Operation Bambi.”
By comparison, “Today” had stuck to the same camera angles and scripted intros and outros since the 1990s. Some suggested that the show was getting stale. Others privately wondered if Lauer’s star power was beginning to fade. By January, Bell had another culprit in mind: Ann Curry. So insistent was Bell that Curry was the problem — that she was “out of position,” as he put it in an e-mail to his deputies — that he had been talking about it with friends for months. One morning-TV veteran suggested to him that firing Curry, who had been co-hosting for only about six months at that point, would be tantamount to “killing Bambi.” Undeterred, Bell hatched a careful three-part plan: 1.) persuade Lauer to extend his expiring contract; 2.) oust Curry; 3.) replace her with Savannah Guthrie. According to this source, Bell called his plan Operation Bambi.