The 8 Juiciest Things That Have Actually Happened On Morning Shows
Loosely based on CNN anchor Brian Stelter's book Top of the Morning, Apple TV+'s The Morning Show is an inside look at the cutthroat world of morning news. It stars Jennifer Aniston as Alex Levy, a veteran TV anchor who finds herself at odds with the younger, greener Bradley Jackson (Reese Witherspoon) after she's brought in to replace her previous co-anchor Mitch Kessler (Steve Carell), who's just been fired following a sexual misconduct investigation. The cast has been firm that Mitch isn't directly based on Matt Lauer, but the show does share some clear parallels with the allegations that led to his firing from the Today show in 2017. (He apologized for his behavior in a statement read on the show, but asserted that some of the claims were "untrue.") And apparently, its portrayal of behind-the-scenes infighting draws from real life as well.
Ann Curry's Today Show Exit
Stetler's book details an adverse relationship between journalist Ann Curry, who was a Today show anchor from 2011 to 2012, and the rest of the show's crew. According to sources Stetler spoke with, Lauer threatened to leave the show because he felt his own rankings were tanking as a result of poor chemistry with Curry, prompting executive producer Jim Bell to begin a campaign to force her out (though, per Vulture, he denies many of the claims made in the book). Lauer also once reportedly told a production assistant of Curry, "I can't believe I am sitting next to this woman."
Today show producers further claimed to Stetler that Katie Couric thought Curry was "melodramatic" and "fake," and that the two had a tense rivalry. Overall, staffers described a "general meanness" toward Curry on the set, with one source claiming to Stetler that "a lot of time in the control room was spent making fun of Ann's outfit choices or just generally messing with her."
Curry was ultimately let go, and she gave a tearful goodbye on air in 2012 — which ended up souring the public on Lauer and Today anyway.
"She was never really given a chance to co-host the show," Stetler wrote. "She was being undermined the whole time."
Katie Couric Versus Diane Sawyer
In her 2014 book The News Sorority, journalist Sheila Weller writes that the sexism still deeply entrenched in media has fostered some epically bad rivalries, including between two of the biggest women in news: Katie Couric and Diane Sawyer.
Per the Daily Beast, Weller's sources claimed Sawyer once threatened to "cut off all social contact" with a celebrity friend if they ever appeared on Today with Couric.
On the other hand, when Sawyer nabbed an interview with a 57-year-old woman who'd given birth to twins, Couric reportedly mused aloud, "I wonder who she blew this time to get it."
Kelly Ripa Left Out Of The Loop
In April 2016, former footballer-turned-news host Michael Strahan left Live! with Kelly and Michael to work for Good Morning America — and everyone conveniently didn't tell co-host Kelly Ripa until right before the news broke to the public. According to a TMZ report, Ripa felt so "blindsided" by the decision that she took an unplanned vacation, leaving Strahan to announce his departure without her. When Ripa eventually returned to work, she delivered a long monologue about the importance of communication and "respect in the workplace."
Ripa's own actions in regard to her co-hosts have raised eyebrows, too, though. When her new co-host Ryan Seacrest was accused of sexual misconduct in 2018, Ripa vehemently defended him, leaving many to feel she failed to show solidarity to the victim in question. (Seacrest categorically denied the claims.)
Tamron Hall Ousted For Megyn Kelly
Journalist Tamron Hall used to host a now defunct segment of Today called "Today's Take," but in January 2017 she was suddenly passed over so NBC could accommodate a new hour for former Fox News host Megyn Kelly, titled Megyn Kelly Today.
"I go into work one day. I left fired. 'Demoted' I guess is what they called it. I called it fired," Hall told ET in September.
Hall told USA Today that the firing was "a gut punch" and that she "already knew they made the wrong choice when I (walked out) the door."
Megyn Kelly's Many Cringeworthy Moments
Hall was right about Today's mistake in bringing on Kelly, as it marked yet another major misstep on NBC's part in trying to connect to new (read: conservative) audiences. Kelly's show Megyn Kelly Today was canceled in 2018 after her cringeworthy defense of blackface, but that wasn't the first time the former Fox News host found herself mired in controversy. In September 2017, Kelly upset Jane Fonda by pressing her about her plastic surgery, rather than asking about her upcoming projects.
Then in that same month, in honor of the Will & Grace revival, Kelly invited a super fan on and asked him, "Is it true that you became a lawyer and you became gay because of Will?" Debra Messing, who was also there, posted an Instagram comment that she was "dismayed" by Kelly's comment and "regretted" going on the show.
The Talk Versus The View
On The Arsenio Hall Show, Sharon Osbourne and her The Talk co-hosts were asked about the differences between their program and The View. Rather than be diplomatic, Osbourne said on air, "This is the situation. The situation is Barbara: idolize her, divine, she is super-human. I love Barbara Walters. The rest can go f*ck themselves."
Osbourne later apologized for the comment, saying she was just "a loose cannon."
Savannah Guthrie's Supposed "Power Grab"
Apparently drama happens not just among anchors but among the crew as well. After executive Don Nash stepped down from his position as a Today producer, he was replaced by Libby Leist, who happened to be a close friend of Today host Savannah Guthrie. An anonymous staffer claimed to Page Six that they felt that Guthrie "pushed Don out to put Libby there" in a "power grab" to "make sure she gets the best assignments and has someone at the top looking out for her."
Another anonymous Today show insider pushed back on this though, pointing out that "Libby is an incredibly accomplished and talented producer" and to accuse her of getting the job just "because she's 'besties' with the anchor makes zero sense and smacks of sexism."
Anne Hathaway's Elegant Smackdown Of Lauer
In 2012, during the Les Miserables press tour, Lauer sleazily asked Anne Hathaway about a photographer taking a shot up her skirt, instead of about her work on Les Miserables.
Despite having her privacy invaded, Lauer's framing implied that Hathaway was somehow at fault. Hathaway wasn't having it, though, and she answered back with way more grace than Lauer deserved.
"It was obviously an unfortunate incident," she said. "It kind of made me sad on two accounts. One was that I was very sad that we live in an age where someone takes a picture of another person in a vulnerable moment, and rather than delete it and do the decent thing, sells it. And I'm sorry that we live in a culture that commodifies the sexuality of unwilling participants. Which brings us back to Les Mis."
It's clear that broadcast morning news is still very much a boys' club, and that's unfortunately led to numerous intersecting issues: women feeling pitted against each other; women being passed over or forgotten in the hiring process; and women being subjected to numerous judgments about their appearance. The Morning Show certainly has its work cut out for it in exploring this field that has yet to be a place as progressive and diverse as the world it reports on.