Ann Curry’s ouster as co-host of "Today" was planned under the code name "Operation Bambi" by former executive producer Jim Bell, reports Brian Stelter in an in-depth report in The New York Times Magazine.
Bell landed on the term after another morning TV veteran suggested to him that getting rid of Curry would be like "killing Bambi," the story notes.
Despite opposition from NBC News President Steve Capus, who believed that removing Curry would end the show’s streak of ratings dominance, Bell took his plan to NBCUniversal Chief Executive Steve Burke, who ultimately agreed. Bell denies he used the term "Operation Bambi," the piece notes.
The article, which provides a detailed narrative of the behind-the-scenes maneuvering and personality clashes to get Curry into the co-host seat and then to oust her, includes some juicy tidbits about "Today," such as how Curry was treated before her departure.
Curry felt that her last months were "a form of professional torture," Stelter writes. Bell "commissioned a blooper reel of Curry’s worst on-air mistakes. Another time, according to a producer, Bell called staff members into his office to show a gaffe she made during a cross-talk with a local station. (Bell denies both incidents.)," the story says.
The piece continues: "Then several boxes of Curry’s belongings ended up in a coat closet, as if she had already been booted off the premises. 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 … photoshopped a picture of Big Bird next to Curry and asked co-workers to vote on ‘Who wore it best?’"
It also seems certain that co-host Matt Lauer’s current contract, which ends in 2014, will be his last, Stelter writes. NBCUniversal News Group Chairman Patricia Fili-Krushel met CNN’s Anderson Cooper for coffee and discussed a role with him, perhaps in 2014 or having Cooper overlap with Lauer for a year, the story says.
It’s unlikely that Lauer would leave before his contract is up, unless he wanted to, Stelter writes. "Few at NBC have the stomach for a repeat of last year," he notes.