We’ve always been able to count on the Today show to wake us up with its cheerful — and, admittedly, a little saccharine — morning banter. Like a fresh cup of coffee, Today is a perky little antidote to whatever dark truths are currently plaguing normal, everyday life.
Yet at the same time, the show’s cast members have been confronting their own dark truths, making them one of the most interesting groups of folks on daytime TV. While the firing of former anchor Matt Lauer made headlines amid allegations of sexual misconduct, a look behind the scenes reveals plenty of other scandals, heartbreak, rivalries, gaffes, and hurt feelings to last a lifetime.
So, what kinds of things keep the cast members of Today up at night? Today, we’re digging through it all — what went on off camera, as well as in their pasts — to uncover just that. Hang on to your hats and read on to discover the dark secrets of the cast of Today.
Today's Kathie Lee Gifford has suffered from 'crippling loneliness'
If there were ever a perfect morning talk show host, it would be Kathie Lee Gifford, whose bubbly personality left a huge mark on Today‘s fourth-hour time slot. However, she went through her “darkest time” following the deaths of her husband, Frank, in 2015 and her mother two years later. “It dawned on me the other day,” Gifford told AARP The Magazine in March 2019 (via Entertainment Tonight). “I’m a widow, I’m an orphan, because my mother also passed and I’m an empty nester all at the same time.” Her daughter, Cassidy, and son Cody — both in their twenties — are now out of the house.
Gifford went on to reveal that she’s relied on family and friends to help her get through it, saying, “I found myself dealing with crippling loneliness. I had to make moves and spiritual moves. You gotta make new memories or the old ones are going to kill you.”
Carson Daly has dealt with severe panic attacks
Carson Daly, who joined Today in 2013, got candid about his struggles with anxiety in 2018. Joining the ranks of others in media who’ve advocated for mental health, Daly revealed to Today that he’s suffered from generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) for years. According to Mayo Clinic, GAD is “characterized as persistent worrying or anxiety about a number of areas that are out of proportion to the impact of the events.”
Revealing that he experienced his first panic attack while hosting an episode of MTV’s Total Request Live, Daly told Today that the feeling of panic is terrifying: “At times I feel like there’s a sabertooth tiger right here and it’s going to kill me attack me and bite my head off. I’m scared as if that’s really happening. You feel like you’re dying.”
Having worked with a cognitive therapist, Daly has continued to combat his feelings of anxiety partially with muscle relaxation techniques. Still, he said he can feel the anxiety welling up at times while he’s on air. “If you ever watch The Voice live on NBC — watch on a Monday or Tuesday night, I’m never still,” Daly told Today. “It’s the same thing with the Today show in the morning. Some days I’m just a little anxious.”
This Today show cast member had an accident in public
Everyone loves Today‘s weather anchor Al Roker, probably because he’s never been known to mince words. So, when Roker found himself, well, sharting in the White House of all places, it should have been no surprise that he recounted all the gory details himself on national TV.
The whole ordeal went down back in 2002, right after Roker’s well-known gastric bypass surgery. In an interview with Dateline over a decade later (via TMZ), Roker revealed that, while covering an event at the White House, he ended up having a mini-emergency: “I probably went off and ate something I wasn’t supposed to. And as I’m walking to the press room, [I’m thinking] well, I gotta pass a little gas here. I’m walking by myself. Who’s gonna know? Only a little something extra came out. I pooped my pants.”
After presumably rushing to the restroom, Roker recalled, “I threw out the underwear and went commando” (via Business Insider).
Al Roker was reprimanded for some off-color comments
The weather anchor on a morning show tends to bring comic relief — but after a while, the suits at NBC reportedly weren’t laughing at Al Roker anymore. According to Page Six, execs asked the Today show star to tone down his commentary in 2014. “He was saying weird things and becoming too idiosyncratic,” a source claimed. “They asked him to act more like a traditional weatherman.”
We suppose this doesn’t seem too unrealistic, considering Roker’s history of hilariously uncomfortable on-air gaffes. And, of course, his White House sharting confession couldn’t have helped matters either. Even though the insider cited by Page Six alleged that Roker “took their comments to heart and is playing ball,” there have been some questionable on-air moments since then. In 2015, he was forced to apologize after taking an “insensitive” selfie with coworkers in front of a car accident. There was also that time in 2019 when he called Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin a “nitwit.”
Still, Roker seems pretty self-aware about his difficulties with being PC. He even defended fellow TV meteorologist Jeremy Kappell for accidentally making a racist slur on camera, tweeting out, “Anyone who has done live tv and screwed up (google any number of ones I’ve done) understands.”
Ann Curry's Today show firing reportedly had Matt Lauer written all over it
While most people remember Ann Curry’s tearful goodbye on Today in 2012, they may not be aware of the long-rumored backstory surrounding her shocking exit. According to The New York Times, Brian Stelter’s tell-all book, Top of the Morning: Inside the Cutthroat World of Morning TV, later alleged that the show’s executive producer, Jim Bell, planned to fire Curry as soon as co-host Matt Lauer decided to extend his contract. One staffer supposedly quipped that getting rid of Curry was like “killing Bambi,” leading to reports that her firing had been dubbed “Operation Bambi.”
Once Lauer did renew his contract, Curry was reportedly notified that she was being let go. “Matt’s decision guided everything else,” an NBC exec claimed to Stelter. Curry’s departure wasn’t announced until months later, however, and in the meantime, Stelter wrote that she’d “told friends that her final months were a form of professional torture,” reportedly leaving her both “sad” and “enraged.” According to Today show staffers, Curry was essentially bullied during this time: In addition to her belongings reportedly being thrown in a coat closet, she was allegedly made fun of in the control room, and Bell reportedly commissioned a blooper reel of her worst on-air mistakes, which he has since denied.
Once Curry announced her departure, Today lost millions in advertising revenue, with ratings dropping to 600,000 viewers less than its rival, Good Morning America.
Matt Lauer was fired amid sexual misconduct allegations
One of Today‘s biggest public controversies was the 2017 downfall of one of its most popular anchors, Matt Lauer. After an NBC employee came forward claiming he had sexually assaulted her while they were covering the Sochi Olympics three years prior, the network launched an investigation and fired Lauer.
While NBC released in a statement that this was the first complaint they’d received about Lauer, they “were also presented with reason to believe this may not have been an isolated incident” (via CNN). Indeed, it turns out that various press outlets had already been investigating Lauer for months, including Variety, which later released a story alleging that he’d engaged in inappropriate sexual conduct with three other women.
The controversy around Lauer picked back up again in October 2019, when the accuser in the alleged Sochi incident was revealed to be Brooke Nevils. During an interview with Ronan Farrow for his Catch and Kill book, the former NBC News staffer claimed that Lauer had raped her in his hotel room (via Variety). In a lengthy letter to the publication, Lauer rebutted Nevils’ accusations. Claiming they’d had an “extramarital affair” for several months, he wrote in part, “We performed oral sex on each other, we had vaginal sex, and we had anal sex. Each act was mutual and completely consensual.”
Lauer’s former Today co-hosts, Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb, later respectively called this development “appalling” and “horrific,” while expressing support for Nevils.
What Curry allegedly knows about Lauer could 'destroy' him
After Brooke Nevils claimed in October 2019 that she was raped by Matt Lauer, Ann Curry tweeted her support of the former: “Brooke Nevils is a credible young woman of good character. She came to NBC News an eager and guileless 20-something, brimming with talent. I believe she is telling the truth. And that breaks my heart.”
Around that time, a source cited by Us Weekly claimed that Curry knew more details of Lauer’s reported sexual abuse than she’d let on. “Ann has maintained a dignified silence, but a lot of people confided in her years ago and still do to this day,” the insider alleged. “She knows more than most about the man Matt really is, and when she finally speaks out, it will destroy him.”
As of this writing, Curry has not spoken out directly against Lauer. However, she was quoted in journalist Ronan Farrow’s Catch and Kill claiming that she’d warned NBC higher-ups about Lauer’s alleged behavior long before his firing. “She told me that complaints about Lauer verbally harassing women in the office were well known in her day,” Farrow wrote. “And that once, in 2010, a colleague had pulled her into an empty office and broken down, saying Lauer had exposed himself and propositioned her.” Curry later approached NBC executives on her coworker’s behalf, reportedly saying they had “a problem” with Lauer, but no formal complaint was made in that case.
Meredith Vieira's eco-friendly strategy shocked her Today show castmates
What started as a light discussion about protecting the environment and “going green” turned into a super weird confession from Today‘s Meredith Vieira in 2019. While chatting with co-host Jenna Bush-Hager, Vieira revealed that one way she manages to be eco-friendly is by reusing plastic utensils. And, well .. it gets worse.
“My friends think it’s kind of disgusting,” Vieira admitted. “But I have plasticware that goes back probably 20 years, because I just wash it … I don’t want to throw it away because I feel, where’s it going?”
Twenty years of recycling the same plasticware is a long time, but her next confession was even more mind-boggling. “I also wash the paper plates. That’s probably bad, too,” Vieira continued. For her part, Bush-Hager looked incredulous — to which Vieira insisted with a laugh, “Don’t judge me. Do NOT judge me.” She then explained that she simply wipes the plates off and saves them “for kids’ parties. Because, who cares?”
The hidden tension between Katie Couric and Bryant Gumbel
Fans who remember Today back in the ’90s will recall how co-hosts Katie Couric and Bryant Gumbel were a powerful pair who won over audiences with their playful banter. Yet the funny thing is, reports later revealed that they never really got along.
A couple of years after he left the NBC morning show, Gumbel implied that Couric got too much credit for the show’s success in a 1999 interview with New York Times Magazine. “I do think the comparison is a little unfair in light of the fact that I won in two different decades with two different cohosts,” he said (via E! News). Meanwhile, a source claimed the two definitely weren’t friends, saying, “There were some Academy Award-winning performances by both of them. I don’t think either one of them wanted to spend one minute together.”
Two years earlier, Couric herself admitted their relationship might not have been what it seemed on air, telling the print magazine George: “We were never really that close. There was a lot of creative tension. Well, there was a lot of tension. I don’t know how creative it was.”
Meredith Vieira has struggled with her husband's MS
Meredith Vieira has established herself as one of Today‘s classiest hosts with her poise and professionalism, and we rarely see her private pain. However, her journalist husband, Richard Cohen, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis over 40 years ago. In 2019, Vieira opened up to People about the couple’s struggle with the disease, which attacks the central nervous system, describing it as “progressive.” At the time of this writing, Cohen is legally blind and uses a walker, and Vieira admitted that dealing with the chronic illness hasn’t been easy for either of them.
“We definitely allow each other to vent,” she said. “That’s part of the deal. Certainly he’s allowed to vent, because he’s got chronic illness. But I am too. Because there are days I can’t stand it and the limitations it puts on the entire family. It’s good to say it. But we don’t dwell.”
Indeed, Vieira and Cohen have a lot going for them, considering their successful careers and three children together. As Vieira put it, “You can think, ‘Why us?’ but then it’s like, ‘Why not us?’ So many people are dealing with stuff and it puts it into perspective.”
Today alum Tom Brokaw was accused of sexual harassment
It was a shock to many when former NBC News correspondent Linda Vester came forward with sexual harassment accusations against Today show alum Tom Brokaw in 2018. Claiming that Brokaw tried to forcibly kiss her twice in the mid-90s, Vester detailed his reported pursuit to Variety. Regarding the first alleged incident, Vester claimed, “I jammed myself up against the back of the sofa and I grabbed a throw pillow, because I was trying to signal to him with my body language that I was both frightened and unwilling.” She alleged Brokaw tried to kiss her, but then left — only to supposedly do the same thing the following year.
Brokaw immediately denied the claims in a statement to the publication: “I met with Linda Vester on two occasions, both at her request, 23 years ago, because she wanted advice with respect to her career at NBC. The meetings were brief, cordial, and appropriate, and despite Linda’s allegations, I made no romantic overtures towards her, at that time or any other.” According to Vanity Fair, Brokaw also sent a private email to his friends and family, writing in part, “I write this letter at 4 A.M., the dawn of my new existence as an accused sexual predator.”
As of this writing, Brokaw remains at NBC. In October 2019, Vester slammed the network’s handling of former employees’ NDAs, stating in part (via The Hollywood Reporter), “Women have been through hell with this company.”
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