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.
“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.
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