Ask Katie Couric what she, veteran journalist, former “Today” co-host and first woman to anchor an evening news program solo would ask about her new memoir and she’ll give a very Katie Couric response: “What would I ask me? Are you glad you wrote this book?” she says flashing her signature bright smile over a Zoom chat, during which she pauses to enjoy bites of frozen yogurt.
The query is a far cry from the majority of early headlines spurred by her 528-page memoir, “Going There,” (Little, Brown and Company, out Tuesday), which focused on her fellow female journalists and Matt Lauer, once her “Today” cohort, who now stands accused of rape (a charge he denies).
“I’m really too stunned and, frankly, hurt to comment,” Deborah Norville (“Today” host from 1990-1991) told the New York Post after Couric’s remarks of her “relentless perfectionism” leaked. NewsNation host Ashleigh Banfield told the same outlet she was “just gobsmacked.”
“…I’d heard through the grapevine (Banfield’s) father was telling anyone who’d listen that she was going to replace me,” Couric, 64, claims in her book. “In that environment, mentorship sometimes felt like self-sabotage.”
Katie Couric’s book tour:Jennifer Garner, Brad Paisley, ‘SNL’ stars among guests set for
In our interview, Couric writes off early coverage of the book as a “strange, willful misinterpretation of what I wrote. It’s clearly not representative of my book, and I think it probably says a lot about the media environment we’re in and the tenor of the times we’re in. So, I was surprised, but not that surprised.”
Couric praises Norville as “stunning” and “whip-smart” and “incredibly hardworking” in her book. “As if that weren’t enough, she made her own clothes. Curtains too.”
Couric sent Norville a copy of the book with hopes of providing context. “I haven’t reached out to Ashley,” she says. “But I’d love for her to read the whole book too.”
That’s not to say some won’t wince at her words. She describes former CBS CEO Les Moonves, who resigned in 2018 after among allegations of sexual misconduct that he denies, as “a close-talker with bad breath.” Michael Jackson, who Couric says wanted to take her out (she declined), had a handshake “like a dead fish” and “had medical tape running down and across what was left of his nose.” She did end up going out with Larry King, who at dinner downed his veal poached in chicken broth “with gusto. Nothing gets a single gal’s juices flowing quite like a man slurping a heart-healthy dish and splattering it all over the napkin tucked into his collar,” Couric jokes.
She describes the memoir, for which she will embark on a nine-city book tour with guests including Jennifer Garner, Chance the Rapper and more beginning Oct. 28, as “unvarnished and unabashedly honest. I couldn’t imagine writing a book and not being true to myself and true to my feelings and true to my own life experiences.”
‘I want to keep going’:Dave Grohl details writing his first book ‘The Storyteller’
The book is dedicated to her two daughters — Ellie Monahan, 30, and Caroline “Carrie” Monahan, 25. It maps out her career — including her early days at the burgeoning CNN when then-president Reese Schonfeld said he never wanted to see her on air after a live hit from the White House — and a bumpy stint at CBS. She also details highs and lows from her personal life, including motherhood and her marriage to the father of her children, Jay Monahan, and his battle with colon cancer which left Couric widowed in 1998. Her second husband, John Molner, faces his own health ordeal (a liver tumor,successfully removed) that she also documents, along with her eating disorder: “Starve, cheat, binge, purge – the cycle would take years to break.”
“I wrote this book not for tabloid reporters who are looking for clicks,” she says. “I wrote this book for young women who are maybe trying to make their way in the world, for people who have a terminally ill spouse, for someone who took a chance on a job and was disappointed with the way it turned out, for the person who has to work for a jerk who is sabotaging her. I wrote this book for real people.”
Morning-show fans will likely get a kick out of Couric’s depiction of behind-the-scenes sabotage she writes occurred between “Today” and “Good Morning America.”
“We’d put up our guests in hotels in New York, and if ‘GMA’ was able to figure out our undisclosed location, they’d call, posing as a ‘Today’ show staffer, and tell the guest the interview had been canceled,” Couric alleges. “Or they’d send a car to pick them up in the morning and whisk them to the ‘GMA’ studios instead of ours.” She admits “Today” “got our hands dirty too.”
“I had so much fun writing that chapter because it was so crazy,” she says.
With ‘Dear Therapists,’ Katie Couric aims to showcase real-life therapy sessions
‘The ultimate broadcaster’:Iconic ‘Today’ show weatherman Willard Scott dies at 87
Couric also looks back at her friendship with former “Today” co-anchor Lauer in “Going There” and his firing amid accusations of sexual misconduct and assault. The two were “warm, professional friends” she says during our chat, and she was “really surprised” by the news. “I saw Matt occasionally and was still friendly with people on the show. I found it really shocking and disappointing and yet I had to really figure out what was going on and process what was going on and excavate certain things that would be helpful in me understanding.”
Processing, she says, was “really hard” and “a painful experience.” Readers can see the former colleagues’ relationship deteriorate in text conversations Couric includes in “Going There.”
“Matt, I am crushed,” she texted him on Nov. 29, 2017, the day of his firing. “I love you and care about you deeply. I am here. Please let me know if you want to talk. There will be better days ahead. Love, Katie”
As reports and new allegations continued to roll out, Couric grew unsure about her feelings. “Hi you,” she texted him on Dec. 22, 2017. “I’m sorry I haven’t been in touch. It’s been a bit confusing for me.”
“I think they were really helpful in seeing how I was processing this,” Couric says of the texts. “As I was getting more information, it was much harder for me to extend myself as a supporter.”
“Time passed,” she explains in “Going There.” “Our chance to connect evaporated, along with our friendship.
“I know Matt thinks I betrayed him, and that makes me sad. But he betrayed me, too, by how he behaved behind closed doors at the show we both cared about so much”
Asked if she thinks their friendship could ever be repaired: “I have no idea,” she answers. “I think it seems unlikely at this juncture.”
A ‘deeply humiliated and heartbroken’ Meghan McCain decided to leave ‘The View’ after this on-air spat
As for the question she posed herself: Couric says she is glad she wrote the book. Why?
“It represents a moment in time and is a certain period of history from the perspective of someone who was very lucky to have the seat she had,” says Couric. “I really wrote it for my daughters, but I think for anyone who’s interested in what it was like to be a woman in television news at a certain moment in time or over a certain period of time might find it really enlightening.”