The Most Eye-Opening Bombshells From Katie Couric's New Book, Going There

Katie Couric's new memoir, on sale now, has added a controversial new chapter to her legacy as a journalist and beloved TV personality.

By Natalie Finn Oct 27, 2021 2:00 AMTags
Watch: Katie Couric "Loved" Getting Under Diane Sawyer's Skin

Katie Couric's memoir just came out Tuesday, but it's been causing raised eyebrows for a month.

From her revelations about competition among her fellow female network stars during her time on Today to her thoughts on her disgraced former co-anchor Matt Lauer, from what she didn't reveal about Ruth Bader Ginsburg following a 2016 interview to what she was all too happy to share about Prince Harry, the tidbits that served as preview fodder didn't just drum up anticipation for her 500-page book, Going There.

Rather, all that tea-spilling has had critics and fans alike wondering what sort of game the veteran journalist and TV personality has been playing at all along. 

"I couldn't imagine writing something that wasn't honest and radically transparent," Couric told Today's Savannah Guthrie this month during the most personal stop on her press tour. "I didn't want to do a victory lap or my greatest hits. I think I've had an extraordinary life. I've had incredible opportunities…. I've had huge successes. I've had some pretty public failures, too."

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Noting how she has always had a lot of perfect strangers telling her that they feel as if they know her personally thanks to her decades on television, Couric explained, "I wanted to share the messy parts, what real life was like."

So, readers, she went there.

And we turned the pages at rapid speed to give you a rundown of the book's most eye-opening bombshells, including a not-all-that-long-ago decision she made that kept her up at night: 

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Going There by Katie Couric

Katie did not hold back in her tell-all book, which is available in hardcover, paperback, audio book, and Kindle formats.

Ahead of the book's release, no revelation in Going There was called out more for being journalistically suspect than Katie Couric's admission that she edited out a comment Ruth Bader Ginsburg made to her during a 2016 interview for Yahoo Global News

Asked about NFL players kneeling during the national anthem to protest police brutality against Black people, the late Associate Supreme Court Justice called the move "really dumb of them." Like flag-burning, which is protected free speech, "I think it's a terrible thing to do," Ginsburg said, "but I wouldn't lock a person up for doing it. I would point out how ridiculous it seems to me to do such an act."

Though it was a scathing assessment anyway, Couric writes that in the finished edit she didn't include Ginsburg also saying that the players' actions showed "contempt for a government that has made it possible for their parents and grandparents to live a decent life." She was a "fan," Couric shares, and she wanted to protect the then-83-year-old jurist's reputation. Ginsburg, who died in 2020, had become a progressive hero to so many, herself included, and she felt that certain comments RBG made were "unworthy of a crusader for equality."

"I lost a lot of sleep over that one and still wrestle with the decision I made," she writes, noting that she failed in that moment at keeping her own personal politics "in check."

Couric battled an eating disorder as a teen and young adult, influenced by her mother Elinor's unhealthy relationship with food. When she was attending University of Virginia, her mom would write to her to remind her to watch her weight.

"Starve, cheat, binge, purge—the cycle would take years to break," Couric writes.

She also shares that the 1983 death of singer Karen Carpenter from anorexia-related heart failure deeply affected her and marked the memorable point where she started to break that cycle, though she was still plagued by body-image issues for years.

Couric recalls a 1983 meeting at CNN, where she worked as an assignment editor, in which an unnamed executive cracked that she'd been successful "because of her determination, hard work, intelligence and breast size."

And when she was in her late 20s, she wrote, she went on a date with Larry King, who joined CNN as the host of Larry King Live in 1985. (King, who was almost 25 years her senior, died in January. He was unmarried from 1983 until 1989, when he wed his sixth wife.)

"The tongue. The hands," she writes. "The whole scene was such a cliché, I began to laugh and gently pushed him away." She told him she was looking for a man closer to her own age, Couric recalls, to which he replied, "No problem. But when I like, I really like." They remained friendly, she continues, and would share "a big laugh" whenever they ran into each other over the years.

Couric alleges in the book that, back in the early '90s, her and husband Jay Monahan's live-in nanny—whom she refers to as "Doris"—"managed to grow deep, twisted roots into our family and my psyche, leaving me to imagine I couldn't function without her," and ultimately tried to sabotage her marriage.

Moreover, in the book Couric accuses Doris of retaliating after her firing by drawing up stickers that said things like "Why does Katie Couric care more about her job than her child?" and "Why is her husband a pedophile?" and posting them—with Couric's personal phone number—in payphone booths and at rest stops in New Jersey.

Couric explains that the latter untrue accusation was likely inspired by a photo the nanny saw of Monahan taken on vacation, in which he was lying on the bed with the top button of his khakis undone "to give himself room to breathe" while their daughter Ellie played nearby. Doris also allegedly had made fliers with the picture in question and brought a stack to the lobby of the New York apartment building Couric and Monahan were about to move into, saying she wanted to warn residents that a pedophile was moving in.

The former nanny, whose real name is Nancy Poznek, slammed Couric's version of events, telling DailyMail.com, "I was extremely upset [by what she wrote]. This is going to be in the book forever, it's not true and I have to live with that all the time...If I ran into Katie Couric on the street I wouldn't look at her, I wouldn't say anything. Maybe before this story came out I would have but not since that. I don't want anything to do with her."

About the alleged retaliation with the stickers, Poznek said, "I didn't even have a car. That's not true." And regarding the fliers: "1,000-million times untrue."

Couric admits that her marriage to Monahan suffered as her star rose.

"My fame took up residence in our marriage like an overbearing houseguest," she recalls. "I liked it when people stared at me as I strolled to a great table at a nice restaurant...The bigger I got—the more I was photographed and splashed across magazine covers and gossiped about—the smaller he felt."

They married in 1989 and were together until Monahan's death from colon cancer at only 42 years old in 1998 (the reason Couric became such a staunch advocate for preventative screenings and had her colonoscopy televised in 2000). They had two daughters together, Elinor and Caroline—or Ellie and Carrie, as they're familiarly referred to.

In the book, Couric laments letting their marital troubles fester until Monahan got sick, which was what ultimately pushed all of their issues aside. And later, while she knew they had done everything possible to keep him alive, she wished she had done a better job at helping him die, at preparing for the end once it was inevitable.

Couric met Princess Diana in 1996 and recalls the newly divorced royal asking her how she kept her kids from watching too much "telly," as she was having a hard time keeping Prince William and Prince Harry from overindulging in small-screen time. Couric suggested hiding the remote.

Diana also told the American newswoman that her house was empty, and Couric suggested inviting friends over for a slumber party. But while Couric admits that she sensed Diana's sadness, she had no idea how hard it was for her.

And when she was covering Diana's funeral for NBC News the following year, on Sept. 6, 1997, Couric cried—enough so that the control room knew to move the camera away for a bit. 

Couric writes that Matt Lauer was outwardly "less of a chauvinist" than her prior Today co-anchor, Bryant Gumbel, whom she worked alongside for almost six years.

In a 2019 issue of her newsletter, Couric shared an old clip of Gumbel quizzing her as to why she was taking off work for "so long"—nine weeks was the timeframe he was referring to, though she later said she only was gone for four weeks—following the birth of her first child. She said it was in part to recover from the shock to her body and he replied, "Your ancestors didn't worry about that shock to your body. They came right back and worked." But, she told USA Today in 2019, she and the Real Sports host had "a great working relationship" and remained "very friendly."

Couric also recalls requesting that she and Gumbel split taking the lead on stories 50-50 when she was first offered the role of Today co-anchor in March 1991. Then-NBC News President Michael Gartner said she could have 49-51, which she accepted, deciding that was "close enough—I'd made my point." Directly afterward she told Gartner, "Oh, I almost forgot, I'm pregnant," and he cracked, "You have really lousy timing." To which she recalls firing back with a smile, "So I guess you're not going to be knitting me baby booties anytime soon."

Couric recalls the occasional tension between she and Lauer, her Today co-anchor for nine years, because as much as they were on-air partners, they still competed for stories. 

That made them both better at their jobs, she observes, but off air, they were not especially close, Couric not wanting to risk their generally pitch-perfect chemistry as co-anchors by socializing too much outside of work. 

"On top of that, Matt was just a very discreet guy, never putting his personal stuff out there," she writes. And while they all joked about the network promos calling Couric, Lauer, Al Roker and Ann Curry "America's first family" ("Yeah, we're a family alright—the Manson family"), "Matt and I both knew our success was built on the perception that we were like brother and sister, and between the hours of 7 a.m. and 9 a.m., we were."

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.'"

Couric, calling rival morning show anchor Diane Sawyer "everything I wasn't," writes that she "loved that I was getting under Diane's skin" when Today would get a plum interview before Good Morning America. "Not that she wasn't getting under mine," she adds.

But not in a malicious way, Couric insisted recently on Today. "I laugh about how Diane and I competed for big interviews," she explained. "I thought it was so funny and ludicrous, the way it used to be."

In the book she recalls tabloids picking up what Couric thought was an obvious joke when she quipped about Sawyer, "I wonder who she had to blow to get that," after the GMA anchor scored the first interview with a mom who'd given birth to twins at 57. 

"I'm pretty sure I speak for Diane when I say that neither of us resorted to actual fellatio to land an interview, but we both engaged in the metaphoric kind—flattering gatekeepers, family members, and whoever else stood in the way of a big get," Couric writes.

"I think I was incredibly generous with my colleagues," Couric said on Today in a recent appearance.

But she admits in Going There that she could have been kinder to rising star Ashleigh Banfield, who joined MSNBC in 2000, that she was "way less welcoming" than she should've been after finding out that Banfield's father was "telling anyone who'd listen that she was going to replace me."

"In that environment," Couric writes, "mentorship sometimes felt like self-sabotage."

Talking to Entertainment Tonight about Couric's recollection, Banfield said, "I was pretty shocked, I'm not gonna lie. You know, back in 2000, I was a nobody. And so the fact that she considered me a threat, I guess that's flattering. But at the same time, I sure wish I could've benefited from her leadership."

That part about her father wasn't true, the NewsNation host added, but there were no hard feelings and "I remain steadfast in my admiration for Katie Couric. She is the best in the business at morning television and she always will be in my eyes."

Couric writes of Martha Stewart, who started appearing on Today in 1996, that it took "a few years and some healthy humbling (prison will do that) to develop a sense of humor."

The doyenne of domesticity—who spent five months in a federal lockup between 2004 and 2005 for conspiracy, obstruction and lying to investigators after being accused of insider trading—has been on Today dozens of times, most recently talking up fall fruit desserts on Oct. 13. Couric left the show in 2006 after 15 years at NBC to go anchor the CBS Evening News.

It wasn't easy being the new girl in town when she moved to CBS in 2006, Couric recalls. When the ratings for CBS Evening News continued to lag behind NBC and ABC's broadcasts after their initial surge due to her hiring, then-CBS boss Les Moonves suggested that she move back to mornings to co-anchor The Early Show (now CBS This Morning), but she told him, "I didn't leave the morning show I helped make number one so I could go to the third-place morning show."

"The fantasy that I would come in and miraculously put CBS in first place had faded," she writes. "The situation was unwinnable—we were trying to bring change to a place that didn't want to change. We'd thought we'd been greeted as liberators; instead, we got an insurgency."

Regarding New York magazine's "Alas, Poor Couric" cover story in 2007, when it seemed as if CBS' much-hyped hire was a bust, Couric writes that she felt just like Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City when New York's "Single and Fabulous?" cover drops. She can laugh about it now, she adds, but she went on an epic crying spree then.

On a brighter SATC note, during this period of turmoil, her daughter, looking to cheer her up, did a perfect imitation of Samantha saying, "If I worried about what every bitch in New York said about me, I'd never leave the house!" That helped snap her out of her funk, Couric recalls.

Nor did she feel particularly welcome at 60 Minutes. She recalls a chilly photo shoot in which all the other talent had their own teams and she had no team. Couric writes that she was passed over for a Lady Gaga interviewa year after she suggested the news magazine show do a package on the super-star-in-the-making in the first place—as well as for a sit-down with Hillary Clinton.

Couric did, however, catch the assignment to interview Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger after the "Miracle on the Hudson" emergency landing in 2009—and she was told, she writes, to not "f--k it up." She did not f--k it up. In fact, the segment won an Emmy for Outstanding Interview and she recreated it in the Clint Eastwood-directed Sully opposite Tom Hanks as the hero pilot (who's also, incidentally, haunted by the media attention).

Before her infamous interview series with Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin in 2008, the one in which John McCain's running mate was stumped by questions such as which newspapers and magazines had shaped her worldview, Couric recalls former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright advising her to just let the candidate talk.

At the same time, Couric recalls, she was caught on a hot mic poking fun at the names of Palin's children, so that was all that conservative media needed to allege that the CBS News anchor was shamelessly biased.

Couric was surprised that Lauer agreed to do a cold open with her to kick off her ABC-produced daytime talk show Katie, featuring Jessica Simpson as her first guest, in 2012. In a nod to Newhart, the former co-anchors wake up in twin beds and Couric tells him she had the strangest dream, about leaving Today to go host evening news.

The cameo was her producer Jeff Zucker's idea. When he sent her a note about it, Couric replied, "Funny, would get a lot of buzz. He's kind of a pussy so probably won't do it though."

Couric recalls meeting Prince Harry in 2012—during his "wild-oats sowing phase"—at a polo match in Brazil while on assignment to interview Queen Elizabeth II's notoriously fun-loving grandson ahead of the monarch's Diamond Jubilee. "A strong aroma of alcohol and cigarettes seemed to ooze from every pore" of the royal's body, she writes. (A rep for the now married father of two did not respond to a request for comment about Couric's olfactory memory.) 

Couric writes that Louis C.K. once asked her to appear on his critically acclaimed sitcom Louie, which ran on FX from 2010 until 2015, in a cameo as herself. "In the scene he pitched," she recalls, "I'm on TV, reading the news, while Louie watches. And suddenly I break from the broadcast to speak to him directly: 'Louie, just do it. You know you're gonna do it. So just take off your pants and get started.'"

The New York Times reported in November 2017, just a few weeks before Lauer was fired, that five women had accused the comedian of sexual misconduct—four of them alleging he had asked them if he could expose himself and/or masturbate in front of them (and then did just that in front of two of the accusers), and another alleging that she could hear him masturbating during a phone conversation, uninvited.

Louis C.K. stated in response to the Times' 2017 article, "These stories are true. At the time, I said to myself that what I did was okay because I never showed a woman my dick without asking first, which is also true. But what I learned later in life, too late, is that when you have power over another person, asking them to look at your dick isn't a question. It's a predicament for them. The power I had over these women is that they admired me. And I wielded that power irresponsibly."

A member of Louis C.K.'s team did not return a request for comment about Couric's anecdote.

Recalling the 50th birthday bash she threw herself, she notes that looking at the photos from that evening, you'd never know her life was "a dumpster fire" at the time.

Couric feels that dating Brooks Perlin, who was 32 years her junior, when she was in her early 50s was part of a midlife crisis, a bit of rebellion after never doing anything scandalous (on purpose) in her life. She remains grateful that, during her rebellious phase, it never got out that one night she ended up violently ill at Lenox Hill Hospital after taking too many shots, sick from overdoing it but more worried by the thought of the tabloid headlines.

She got a heads up that Perlin was moving out when Page Six called her rep for comment.

In hindsight, she writes that overstaying in that relationship put distance between Couric and both her daughter Carrie (Ellie was already away at college) and her mother Elinor, and she regrets it.

Looking to date with more "intention," she asked friends to set her up—and they came through with John Molner, who asked her out via email.

She liked that he was a good eater, and that he didn't say a word and paid the bill when the bottle of wine she ordered on their first date, trying to impress, cost $500.

Molner still had a girlfriend when he first reached out, Couric shares, but he broke up with her immediately.

The "fancy-pants designer" she first enlisted to make her wedding dress (and who remains nameless in the book) came up with something that made her feel during a fitting "like a leftover piece of merengue, which wasn't what I was going for," she writes. "An expensive mistake."

So her friend Carmen Marc Valvo stepped up, less than a week before their June nuptials. "Chic, simple, pretty," she describes the white halter dress she wore to marry Molter.

Among the pre-#MeToo behaviors people whispered about when she was on Today, Couric writes of hearing a rumor about "a secret office called The Bunker" that only one unidentified male anchor had a key for, and which he used for "one-on-ones, and I don't mean interviews." 

And she alleges that on one occasion Lauer accidentally sent the wrong producer (who had the same last name as a woman he was involved with) an inter-office message, suggesting she come to his office and wear "that skirt that came off so easily (or something to that effect)." A few minutes later, Couric continues, "a flustered Matt appears at [the producer's] door. He handed her a book. 'This might be good for the show,' he said. They never spoke about the incident."

Ultimately, Couric recalls, "The general attitude at the time was it's none of your business. A don't-ask-don't-tell culture where anything goes, and everything did. Assuming Matt was having a consensual fling, I didn't even consider talking to the young employee about it and embarrassing her. I just figured that's how she'd feel—embarrassed. I never got the chance to find out."

She also writes that she had heard a rumor about Lauer's then-wife Annette calling the control room on a Sunday morning looking to speak to an anchor her husband had been romantically linked to. And upon hearing that, Couric writes, "I felt humiliated for Annette. But I had no idea if the rumors were true and, if they were, what I would even do with that information."

Couric shares that she had dinner with Lauer in early November 2017, a few weeks before he was fired from Today. She recalls him telling her that "this MeToo stuff feels like it's getting kind of out of control. It feels like a witch hunt." After the dinner, she texted him, "Omg what the hell did you put in my drink? Phenobarbital???? Thank you for being such a good friend. I treasure you." To which he replied, "The length of our friendship and the comfort that comes with that is more powerful than any drug in a drink!"

NBC fired Lauer after receiving, per a company memo, a "detailed complaint from a colleague about inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace." At the time, he issued a statement apologizing for any behavior that may have hurt people and saying that "some of what is being said about me is untrue or mischaracterized, but there is enough truth in these stories to make me feel embarrassed and ashamed."

Referring to the weeks following Lauer's firing, Couric writes in Going There, "I took [journalists'] calls and told them the truth—that it had been widely assumed Matt had a lot of problems in his marriage. I knew he was a player, but I didn't know his extracurriculars were happening inside 30 Rock."

The Lauers separated in 2017 in the wake of his misconduct scandal and Annette filed for divorce in 2019.

Couric admits being very worried about how her former co-anchor was doing after he was fired and she texted him words of support: "Matt, I am crushed. I love you and care about you deeply. I am here. Please let me know if you want to talk. There will be better days ahead."

He replied with a kiss emoji, she shares.

As more lurid, disturbing details about Lauer's behavior were reported in the next few weeks, she was still concerned for Lauer and his family. Molner, who had been golf buddies with Lauer, said she should go see him at his home in East Hampton if she was so worried, "but I didn't know what I would say," she recalls. "If I'm being perfectly honest, I was worried about my reputation."

"If I was spotted there, it might look like I condoned the behavior," she recalls thinking, noting she could have visited in the middle of the night, a scenario that played out on The Morning Show between co-anchors played by Jennifer Aniston and Steve Carell after he's accused of sexual misconduct. "I was confused and simply not ready to take on the role of sympathetic friend and colleague just yet."

In December 2017, Addie Collins Zinone—who as a journalism student had reached out to Couric, shadowed her for a day, got an internship and then was hired as a production assistant—alleged that she had a month-long affair with Lauer in 2000. Couric texted Lauer to let her know she was thinking of him. (She writes that she reached out to Zinone in 2019 and they met up in L.A., where the by then married mother of two told Couric that her affair with Lauer was consensual but she also didn't really feel that she could say no. Zinone told her she didn't go to her for help, Couric writes, because she felt ashamed.)

In her first interview addressing the scandal, published Jan. 13, 2018, Couric told People that she found all of the accusations "disturbing, distressing and disorienting." She said, "I had no idea this was going on during my tenure or after I left. I think I speak for many of my former colleagues when I say this was not the Matt we knew."

Nowadays, they no longer speak and she doubts they will again. She writes, "I know Matt thinks I betrayed him, and that makes me sad. But he betrayed me, too, by how he behaved behind closed doors at the show we both cared about so much."

 —With reporting by Beth Sobol

(E! and NBC are both members of the NBCUniversal family.)

(Originally published Oct. 26, at 9:25 a.m. PT)