In early 2012, there was a mysterious codename floating in the halls of NBC's prized morning show, the Today show. It was called "Operation Bambi," and it had a disturbing meaning. It was a concerted effort orchestrated by longtime Today show anchor Matt Lauer to oust his then co-host Ann Curry. Lauer had named his sinister effort "Operation Bambi," because getting rid of Ann Curry, a longtime veteran reporter for NBC credited in part with giving the organization its reputation for hard-hitting journalism (interspersed with entertainment and hokey comedy beats, of course) would be tantamount to "killing Bambi." Curry was fired in June of 2012, and her tearful departure message is still as visceral today as it was then. Many people speculated that her abrupt departure had been Lauer's doing, but NBC alleged that Curry had been fired because Today's ratings began to lag behind competitor Good Morning America. Lauer was finally fired today, and social media is rejoicing.
For years, Matt Lauer ruled the roost at NBC.
Female co-hosts have come and gone, but Lauer remained, reportedly signing a $28 million dollar two-year contract despite whispers of his backstabbing, inappropriate and vindictive ways.
In fact, when colleague Al Roker once euphemistically referred to “throw[ing] people under the bus,” everyone knew who he was talking about.
Today, however, the winds have changed, and the seemingly impossible has happened.
Today co-anchor Savannah Guthrie announced live on air that Lauer had been let go due to allegations of sexual harassment, which, as she noted, seemed extremely credible.
“All we can say is we are heartbroken; I’m heartbroken,” Guthrie said. The New York Times noted that Today staff only learned of the news moments before going live.
Guthrie continued by saying she was “heartbroken for the brave colleague who came forward to tell her story”
While this may seem shocking, NBC wasn't particularly blindsided by the news.
Several other news organizations, the New York Times included, have been working on stories about Lauer’s sexual misconduct. Given the current social climate, particularly with the ever-emerging news of sexual misconduct by powerful men, it was only a matter of time before the axe would swing surely in Lauer’s direction.
Besides, as previously noted, Lauer has always espoused a particularly virulent and sinister form of sexism.
Remember in 2016 when he repeatedly interrupted Hillary Clinton during a presidential forum, questioned her judgment and fitness while giving then-candidate Trump what amounted to a pass?
In her memoir, What Happened, Clinton wrote, “Lauer had turned what should have been a serious discussion into a pointless ambush. What a waste of time.”
But Lauer's most vicious treatment was saved for the women who worked next to him – particularly Ann Curry, who he hated because she threatened his dominance as the reigning Today show hard-hitting journalist.
Lauer, along with other male members of the staff, cultivated an atmosphere of disdain and harassment that wore Curry down and eventually led to her firing. Brian Stelter of the New York Times described what Curry went through:
Curry felt that the boys’ club atmosphere behind the scenes at “Today” undermined her from the start, and she told friends that her final months were a form of professional torture. The growing indifference of Matt Lauer, her co-host, had hurt the most, but there was also just a general meanness on set. At one point, the executive producer, Jim 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.
Well, now, times have changed, which means people on social media are having a blast.