Katie Couric famously informed Taylor Swift that there’s “a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.” But it sounds like the journalist was NOT practicing what she preached.
As we’ve been reporting, the Today alum has a new book coming out, Going There, in which she reportedly burns a lot of bridges. According to the Daily Mail, which received an advanced copy of the memoir, the author admitted to being threatened by other women in the workplace and reluctant to help them. She singled out one colleague in particular:
“For a minute there, Ashleigh Banfield was the next big thing; I’d heard her father was telling anyone who’d listen that she was going to replace me. In that environment, mentorship sometimes felt like self-sabotage.”
Well, after these excerpts made headlines, an NBC source revealed what sounds like an active act of sabotage on Katie’s part. The insider told DailyMail.com that they witnessed a serious mean girl moment between the venerated hostess and Ashleigh at the 2000 Olympics. They recalled:
“It was such a disappointing scene. … Katie Couric caused that problem in Sydney and she used it to trash Ashleigh Banfield within the network. It was disgraceful.”
For those unfamiliar, Ashleigh was called up to fill in for Tom Brokaw of NBC Nightly News at the time, and was scheduled to interview gold medalist Michael Johnson after he interviewed with Today. The topic of performance enhancing drugs was off limits with the athlete, but a producer had apparently advised her to ask about doping “rumors” surrounding the Games.
Per the source, when the reporter arrived to the set with a production assistant, one of Katie’s producers yelled in her face that she wasn’t “supposed to be in here.” They remembered:
“Spit was flying everywhere into Ashleigh’s face.”
Ashleigh was directed to “sit outside the studio door on this chair,” which belonged to a security guard who was “mortified” by the scene. While she was forced to wait, the PA was invited into the room where Katie was “joking” and laughing about the situation:
“I hope it wasn’t too mean having her kicked out of here. Hehehehe.”
After her own interview, the TV personality reportedly said:
“I think Michael [Johnson] has another interview to do before he leaves, but before he does that, my daughter Ellie needs to interview him first for a school paper.”
(The momma of three referenced this in her book, calling the moment with her daughter one of the “over-the-top perks of my job.”)
When Ashleigh was finally allowed in to conduct her interview, Katie stayed and watched — and witnessed the moment things went off the rails. Johnson was reportedly “furious” when she brought up rumored drug use and the interview ended quickly after.
Meanwhile, her co-worker began “mocking” her from the sidelines, saying:
“What is she doing? Who does she think she is? This is so embarrassing for me and for the TODAY Show.”
As she was leaving set, Ashleigh had to walk by her rival, who allegedly told her:
“Eww that was awkward Ashleigh. Eww. Awkward.”
Apparently, Ashleigh was later “reprimanded for asking the question and for embarrassing Couric,” and according to the source, Katie “used that one event to undermine Banfield across NBC News.” The insider explained:
“Here was America’s so called sweetheart, showing she was no supporter of her colleague or another woman and she openly took joy in the fact that she’d at first blocked Ashleigh from being on set, then had her child do this pathetic school project interview with Michael and then she relished in Michael’s response when he stopped the interview at the point Ashleigh asked the most important question.”
The source continued:
“Ashleigh Banfield was the only journalist in the room that day. While Katie Couric sold her fake perky dark soul for access to Michael Johnson, Ashleigh attempted to ask the question that was pertinent to what was happening at the Sydney Olympics. And she was vindicated years later when Johnson handed back one of the gold medals he won in Sydney for the 4x400m relay because his team mate had in fact used performance enhancing drugs behind his back.”
The source recalled reading about the Sydney incident again in 2003, sharing:
“A few years later I read in the New York Times that Ashleigh had ‘problems’ with colleagues such as Katie Couric. My blood boiled when they mentioned the Sydney Olympics as the main example. Katie Couric caused that problem in Sydney and she used it to trash Ashleigh Banfield within the network. It was disgraceful.”
“I kept thinking, what must Katie’s daughter think, seeing her Mom behave in this way? What sort of example is she setting for her? As a parent you teach your children to be kind and not bully others but Katie was the complete opposite to Ashleigh and she had no problem doing it in front of her daughter and all of the Today Show staff.”
Ashleigh herself commented on the story, telling the outlet:
“I don’t want to reopen old wounds, but Sydney certainly was a professional challenge for me.”
Wow. What a disappointing situation. But honestly, it kind of tracks with what Katie herself wrote about in her own book. It’s a real bummer to hear one of our most prominent female journalists wasn’t more kind or generous to her female colleagues. It sounds like Ashleigh could have really used some support in that moment.
[Image via Ivan Nikolov/Jeff Grossman/WENN]