In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Meredith Vieira opens up about a difficult time for NBC’s “Today” show, conceding that the period when co-host Ann Curry was ousted from the program was “such a bad time.”
“I really felt for Matt a lot. And I felt for Ann, too,” she said. “It turned so nasty, really nasty. Every day you’re reading this stuff that is just beyond cruel from angry, angry people who felt that Ann had been slighted and embarrassed and humiliated. And they basically pointed to one person on whom to take out all of their anger. I don’t know if I would have survived that.”
Vieira noted that much of the fallout from the situation fell on “Today” host Matt Lauer, adding that she didn’t give Lauer advice on how to deal with the situation, but that she “never sugarcoated what had happened.”
“I thought it had not been handled smartly from the very beginning, because I don’t think they ever felt that was the right fit for Ann, so they should never have put her in that position to begin with,” she said. “And then the ending was so mishandled.”
As for Vieira’s role on “Today,” it’s speculated that NBC would have paid her more than $10 million per year to remain on the show, up from her $8 million-per-year salary when she left. NBC executives may have thought she wouldn’t turn down the money, but Vieira said she realized, “If I’m sticking around for that, there’s something wrong.”
She noted, “I like being well-paid. But that’s never my incentive for jobs.”
Vieira is now being viewed as a hope for renewed profits and status for NBC’s daytime schedule, as she’s preparing for the Sept. 8 debut of “The Meredith Vieira Show.” The program is said to have a budget of close to $35 million, excluding her talent fee, which is about $5 million.
The publication notes, “It’s more expensive than the average daytime talker — which costs about $20 million — though considerably less than the $50 million ABC invested in the first season of Katie Couric’s show.”
Instead of taping at NBC’s less expensive facility in Stamford, Conn., Vieira insisted the show tape at NBC’s 30 Rockefeller Center headquarters, where it will be filmed in a refurbished sixth-floor studio across from Jimmy Fallon’s “Tonight Show,” the story adds.
The new show will include inspirational interviews and focus on Vieira’s causes, such as multiple sclerosis, the disease from which her husband suffers, as well as giveaways.