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Couric describes Deborah Norville, the Today co-anchor she succeeded in 1991, as “whip-smart,” “stunning” and “incredibly hard-working”—but also as someone whose “relentless perfection” turned off viewers. Norville was in the role for a little more than a year, starting her tenure after, as Couric puts it, longtime anchor Jane Pauley was “unceremoniously pushed out.”

(Then-NBC News executive VP Dick Ebersol told the Washington Post in 1989 that his original plan was to have both ladies on Today in some capacity. “I sure as hell didn’t want Jane to leave the show,” he said. But Pauley was headed for prime-time, so “the whole thing actually has a happy ending.” On her farewell episode as Today co-anchor, Pauley hugged Norville and said, “It has hurt to see two of my friends, Bryant and Deborah, assigned roles in this that they did not play.” Talking to the Post afterward, she called some of the coverage of the shakeup “perverse.” Pauley, who went on to co-anchor Dateline until 2003, said, “There’s something in the American character that likes things in black-and-white terms—winners and losers, heroes and villains. I was cast as the loser and Deborah as the winner in the early ‘Woman of the ’90s’ stuff, and then suddenly, I was wearing the white hat and Deborah was the bad guy.”)

Norville told the New York Post that she was “too stunned and, frankly, hurt to comment” on Couric’s characterization of her.

On Today this month after that anecdote made the rounds, Couric said, “I think Deborah Norville is one of the kindest, most gracious people.” And, she recalled, it was just fact that viewers were “very protective” of Pauley and there was a bit of a backlash to Norville filling her chair. “That was no criticism of Deborah,” Couric insisted. “It was about what the situation was at the time.”

She added, “I think I’m gonna send her a book and say, ‘I’m so happy for you to read the whole book and put my observations into context.'”

The Hidden Wiki 2021


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