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Peter Kramer  /  Peter Kramer/NBC Universal, Inc.
From left, Al Roker, Meredith Vieira, Matt Lauer, Ann Curry and Natalie Morales
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updated 5/9/2011 1:43:24 PM ET 2011-05-09T17:43:24

Meredith Vieira addressed rumors about her reason for leaving TODAY during a press conference held Monday morning, saying that articles speculating about the health of her husband, who has multiple sclerosis, “diminished” her.

“There’s so much speculation in the press recently [about] ‘poor Meredith with her invalid husband’ and I want to set the record straight on that,” she said. “My husband Richard is in good health, and that’s part of the reason I want to leave right now because …  I want to be there with him and I want to have fun and I want to appreciate our time together and not have to punch a clock so much. It diminished him, those articles, and it diminished me.”

Vieira said that the decision to walk away from TODAY was a tough one, and that conversations about the move began in January, when Jeff Zucker stepped down as the CEO of NBC Universal. (TODAY.com is powered by msnbc.com, which is a joint venture between Microsoft and NBC Universal.)

“I knew I had doubts in my mind about how much longer I would be staying at the broadcast,” she said. “I went back and forth, back and forth…. It was really up until the last minute. I had to go with my gut.”

Vieira’s last day as anchor will be on June 8, and she chose that date so that she will be able to travel with her family.

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“My daughter, Lily, graduates from high school June 9 and my son graduates from college June 12 and then we’re hoping to take a family vacation, so it just sort of felt right,” she said.

In response to a question, Matt Lauer shared his take on the changes at TODAY, and denied speculation that he was also leaving the show.

“I have a long-term deal with NBC — I love this job, I love this place,” he said. “I don’t talk about contracts … [but] I’m going to be here for a while.”

When asked about rumors that he had mulled a syndicated talk show with former TODAY co-anchor Katie Couric, who is leaving the CBS Evening News anchor desk, Lauer admitted that he had indeed spoken to Couric about the venture.

Related: Meredith Vieira to leave TODAY in June

“We certainly spoke about the possibility, but we’ve spoken about a lot of possibilities over the years,” Lauer said.

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“I think it’s natural for two people who work in the same business and very much in the same capacity to talk about those things. As it turned out, it turned into just talk, and that’s where we left it.” 

Video: Watch Meredith Vieira’s emotional announcement (on this page)

Lauer, who said he’d “never enjoyed [working with] a partner more than Meredith,” added that he was thrilled to work the desk with his new co-anchor, Ann Curry.

Curry, who’s made her mark with extensive reporting from conflict regions and areas devastated by natural disasters, said that she plans to continue traveling abroad to report on humanitarian crises — though perhaps not as often.

“The amount of traveling I’ve been doing has been … pretty extreme… [but] I’m jumping into this job with both feet — one hundred percent,” Curry said. “What that means is, I want to be deeply involved in all of our meetings and our discussions. So to some degree, I’m probably going to have to cut back on the amount of traveling.

“Will I continue to travel? Absolutely. Are there stories that need the pulpit of this position? … Absolutely. And will I push for that continually? Absolutely, that will not stop.”

Slideshow: Ann Curry’s distinguished career at NBC News (on this page)

When Curry assumes her new role, Natalie Morales will step into Curry’s current position as news reader. NBC News White House correspondent and msnbc anchor Savannah Guthrie will become the co-anchor of the third hour of TODAY.

As for Vieira, while she will no longer be a full-time member of TODAY, she may still be seen on the show from time to time going forward.

“Clearly she has a home at TODAY,” said Steve Capus, president of NBC News. “We would like it to be that she has a ticket back that she can report for TODAY anytime she wants. We love what Meredith has done at NBC News throughout the years.”

Slideshow: The many sides of Meredith (on this page)

For Vieira, sleeping in is one thing that she looks forward to, though not without a little trepidation.

“I think I’m going to go through that period when you wake up and think you’re late,” she quipped, adding that she plans on enjoying her new role — as a TODAY viewer.

© 2012 MSNBC Interactive.  Reprints

Video: Vieira announces TODAY departure

  1. Closed captioning of: Vieira announces TODAY departure

    >>> commercial we said we'd be back with a big announcement about the future of the show. are we throwing another wedding? are we doing that again?

    >> how many more royals can we marry off?

    >> no, no. this is a difficult day for me. i'm going to try to hold myself together here. but after months of personal reflection and private conversations with my family and friends i have decided to leave "today" in june. even as i say this and i know that it is the right thing i'm really sad because for the past -- i like to say ten years but it's only been five -- this has been my second home. i look at you and the folks at home who don't get to see the wonderful men and women of the crew and everyone in the control room and across the street that bring the best show on television to the morning every day. i'm humbled at what a great experience it's been for me. i have had a great time, but time is one of those weird things you can never get enough of and i want to spend more of mine with my husband richard and my kids who are now rolling their eyes going, no more time, mom! but i'm going to do it anyway. it means that i can't be here every day. i hope to stay in the nbc family. that's my goal. but it won't be sitting at the couch every day. it was september 2006 when i sat down next to matt at the anchor desk and i realized he was going to be really annoying. you said something to me that morning --

    >> get out. i think i said, are you wearing that?

    >> i was so nervous and you said, remember, this is not a sprint. it's a long distance run. i have tried to run it with my heart and soul and i pass the baton to someone i know who will do great.

    >> there are a lot of things i would like to say about meredith and her decision. but suffice it to say that i think we all feel blessed to have had these last five or six years with you. you should know at home that meredith is universally adored here at "today," not just by those of us on the couch but all the people behind the scenes . she's brought class and dignity and talent and a joy of life to this show over the last five years. we will miss you like crazy . but we are going to have a little time at least. we have a few weeks to torment you -- i mean pay tribute to you and we'll do a lot of that. transitions on this show don't happen often. they are rare. so when they do we try to accomplish them with ease and make them seamless but bring new talent and energy and a new perspective to the show. as we are sad to say good-bye to meredith , we are thrilled that ann curry will be taking the a step from this cushion, leaping over here and coming over to this cushion. ann has been such a key member of the show for more than 15 years, has brought her warmth and her desire to tell important stories to "today." i know you will continue to do that. congratulations.

    >> so sweet. you know, i feel like the high school computer nerd who was just asked to the prom by the quarterback of the football team . you're just the best. i'm so excited to work with you, but i have to say i think this day is really meredith 's. i just want you to know that you have been a gift to this broadcast. you have been generous and you have been a great girlfriend. and i know that i have said this to you and i need to say it publically which is to say if i could choose, you would not go. you would stay here and let us wake up with you every morning -- not literally, but you know. i have this sort of -- i'm trying to resist the urge but it's true that i have big shoes to fill. i know you like your shoes and you tonight want people to think you have big feet, but it's true. we have all felt the great joy of having you here. you're right. he's not easy to work with.

    >> annoying.

    >> no, no. he's the best.

    >> really the best.

    >> just to be in your company and be able to wake up -- i know i will get to laugh more because of you and because of you, al. so i'm really so grateful that you have extended yourself to me. i think the other part of the good news this morning is we also get to keep it in the family , as it were and announce that natalie will be taking my job.

    >> all right.

    >> you have been so great. you have been here for five years, have been a correspondent for us and you have been co-hosting the 9:00 with us. it will be great to have you. we'll continue the girlfriend part and also make sure you have to hang out with us.

    >> i'll be here. i'm going to be out there with lenny.

    >> he's going, oh, no!

    >> and i'll be drinking. anything could happen.

    >> more.

    >> yeah.

    >> and they are telling me, yes, we are also having another wedding. we are doing the wedding again. i don't know about that. anyway, a lot to get to over the next several weeks and we'll have some fun and

Photos: The many sides of Meredith

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  1. Meredith Vieira, a TODAY co-anchor from 2006 to 2011, rejoined TODAY for a morning after the broadcast teased that a "legend will return." After she hung out for a bit with Linny on the plaza, she revealed she'd play a part in TODAY's 2012 London Olympics coverage. (NBC) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Meredith was named a special correspondent on "Rock Center with Brian Williams." She debuted with a story about Mimi Alford, a woman who said she had an affair with President John F. Kennedy while serving as a White House intern in 1962. (NBC) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Meredith stopped by Kathie Lee and Hoda's hour of TODAY Feb. 2 to chat about what she's been up to since leaving the broadcast. After the fourth-hour gals congratulated her on her success, Meredith joked they must be "drunk." (NBC) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Meredith stands with Deborah Norville, far left, Katie Couric, Kathie Lee Gifford, Hoda Kotb, Savannah Guthrie, Ann Curry and Natalie Morales during TODAY's special 60th anniversary show Jan. 13. (Peter Kramer / Peter Kramer/NBC) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. After nearly five years as co-anchor of TODAY alongside Matt Lauer, Meredith took leave of the show on June 8, 2011. Ann Curry took her place as co-anchor of America's No. 1 morning show. (NBC) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. In an emotional farewell on Rockefeller Plaza June 8, 2011, Meredith received heartfelt tributes and good wishes from Al Roker, Matt and Ann. (Brendan McDermid / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. On June 8, 2011, her last day as a TODAY anchor, Meredith received a rousing musical tribute from the show's entire family, as well as late-night host Jimmy Fallon (with guitar), on Rockefeller Plaza. (Brendan McDermid / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Meredith has been the host of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" since 2002, and that same year she hosted the "Super Soap Special Edition" of the show (pictured). Here, she talks with the contestant and Eva LaRue and John Callahan from "All My Children." (Matt Stroshane / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Meredith served as a co-editor of CBS’s “60 Minutes” from 1989 to 1991. Here, past and present correspondents of the program join Don Hewitt, the executive producer, lower left, on stage for a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 24th Annual News and Documentary Emmy Awards held in New York on Sept. 3, 2003. From left to right, at rear, Christiane Amanpour, Diane Sawyer, Steve Kroft, Meredith Vieira, and executive editor Philip Scheffler. Middle row, Bob Simon, Lesley Stahl, Ed Bradley, Morley Safer and Andy Rooney. (Stuart Ramson / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Meredith has been honored with eight Emmy awards, including a Daytime Emmy for best morning newscast for her work on TODAY. She earned five Emmys during her 10-year tenure at CBS News, and picked up two Daytime Emmys as outstanding game show host for her work on “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.” (Scott Gries / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Meredith joined ABC’s “The View” as one of its original moderators in 1997. She left the show in June 2006 and joined TODAY in September of that year. Here she bids goodbye during her farewell show, as her co-host Barbara Walters looks on. (Steve Fenn / ABC via AP file) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Meredith and her husband, Richard Cohen, who has battled multiple sclerosis and colon cancer, steal a kiss at a New York news conference in 2006. (Richard Drew / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Bronx resident Linny Boyette is one of TODAY’s biggest fans, appearing on Rockefeller Plaza every morning during the show’s broadcast. Here Meredith poses outside the NBC studio with Linny on her first day at TODAY, Sept. 13, 2006. (Jason Decrow / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. For TODAY’s annual Halloween extravaganza, Meredith has transformed into Princess Leia, Pinocchio, Lily from “The Munsters,” and most recently, Lady Gaga. In 2006, she arrived to the set on a clamshell, dressed as a mermaid. (Richard Drew / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. During her TODAY tenure, Meredith conducted numerous newsmaker interviews, from chimp attack victim Charla Nash to singing sensation Susan Boyle. On Dec. 18, 2006, her interview with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton aired. During the interview, Clinton offered the broadest indication yet that she was close to a decision on whether to enter the 2008 Democratic presidential field. (Virginia Sherwood / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Actor Will Ferrell took Meredith for a spin on the Rockefeller Center ice rink during his show appearance on March 27, 2007, just before the opening of his comedy film “Blades of Glory.” He attempted to show Meredith a stunt, but instead the good sport fell on her back and hit her head, exclaiming, "Ow, that hurt!" (Richard Drew / ap) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. On April 19, 2007, Meredith and Matt reported on a video manifesto and photos sent to NBC from Virginia Tech gunman Seung-Hui Cho, shown on a studio monitor at left. NBC said the package contained a rambling and often incoherent 23-page written statement, 28 video clips and 43 photos. Gunman Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 people and wounded many others before committing suicide during the Virginia Tech attacks on April 16, 2007. (Richard Drew / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Author J.K. Rowling reads to fans in Edinburgh, Scotland, from "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" during Meredith’s July 2007 interview. This was Rowling’s only television interview about her final Harry Potter volume. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. On Feb. 21, 2008, TODAY broadcast live from Vermont’s Sugarbush Resort. The always-intrepid Meredith took the Penguin Plunge into the freezing waters of Lake Champlain to benefit Special Olympics Vermont. (She probably did not opt for the double-dip.) (Toby Talbot / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Meredith will be the first to admit that she’s useless in the kitchen, but in November 2009, she bravely battled consummate hostess Martha Stewart in a heated holiday apple-pie bake-off. Even though Meredith shamelessly admitted to using a pre-made crust, we give her points for panache. (NBC ) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Viewers saw Meredith’s compassion as a journalist in her coverage of events like the devastating earthquakes in Haiti and Japan, and the death of pop icon Michael Jackson. In July 2009, Meredith and TODAY team broadcast live from the Michael Jackson Memorial at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. (Trae Patton / NBC) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Always game to try something new, Meredith shares a laugh with the Paralympic curling team during the 100 Days to Vancouver celebration on Nov. 4, 2009, at Rockefeller Center. Meredith, Matt, Al, Ann and Natalie all traveled to Vancouver in February 2010 to broadcast live from the XXI Olympic Winter Games. (Mike Stobe / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Olympic speed skater Apolo Anton Ohno and Meredith go way back: During the Vancouver Games, the skater and “Dancing With the Stars” champ gave Meredith some skating tips, and showed her how to dance the tango. Eight months after the Games, Ohno sat down with Meredith to chat about his new book, “Zero Regrets,” and his journey to becoming a record-breaking athlete. (NBC) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Jasper, Meredith’s dog and jogging partner, has appeared on the show several times alongside the anchor. Always the loyal companion, here Jasper participates in a segment about canine learning abilities and vocabulary recognition. (Richard Drew / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. On Aug. 20, 2010, Meredith and actress and cancer survivor Maura Tierney threw the first pitch at Fenway Park before the Boston Red Sox game against the Toronto Blue Jays in support of the Jimmy Fund, which supports adult and pediatric cancer care and research. Meredith’s husband, Richard Cohen, has survived two bouts with colon cancer. (Gail Oskin / Getty Images ) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. For Halloween 2010, Meredith channeled her diva spirit and took the stage as Lady Gaga, working it to “Bad Romance” – with blond locks, bold outfit and back-up dancers to boot. (Jonathan D. Woods / Today.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. There’s no denying that Meredith has a way with the fellas, including cheeky actor Russell Brand. Anchor and actor have had a couple of innocent, flirtatious exchanges during Brand’s visits to the TODAY set. (Peter Kramer / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. One of Meredith’s most recent newsmaker interviews was her sit-down with Donald Trump. In the wide-ranging interview that aired April 7, 2011, Trump spoke pointedly about Obama's presidency, foreign affairs, and the possibility of running for president. "Right now, I have some real doubts" about Obama’s citizenship, he told Meredith. (Kelly Conaty / NBC) Back to slideshow navigation
  29. In her nearly five years at TODAY, Meredith covered several major news stories, from the 2008 presidential election to the royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. Along with Ann, Matt and Natalie, Meredith reported live from London for the widely-watched nuptials. (Mark Allan / NBC) Back to slideshow navigation
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  1. Today - 2012
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    Above: Slideshow (29) The many sides of Meredith
  2. Today - Season 2012
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    Slideshow (30) Ann Curry’s distinguished career at NBC News

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