Katie Couric Criticizes Former NBCUniversal Boss Jeff Shell for “Stupid and Reckless” Behavior Prior to Ouster
Katie Couric is weighing in on former NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell’s surprise firing last month over an accusation of workplace misconduct.
“It just amazes me that a powerful executive like that would be so dumb, just be so stupid and reckless,” Couric says on Kelly Ripa’s Let’s Talk Off Camera podcast.
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“I think reckless is the word. You can see how it happens, but I think you have to be smart and disciplined and know that unless you tell your supervisor, and unless you’re not a direct report, that having a relationship with a colleague isn’t cool,” she adds.
Shell was fired for what the company described as “inappropriate conduct with a female employee, including allegations of sexual harassment.”
“I was so shocked that Jeff Shell would do this. What is it, the power dynamics, they’re so surrounded with yes people that the rules don’t apply to them?” Couric asks on the podcast. She says her surprise extended to Shell apparently not apologizing to his family in his departure statement.
“That makes me sad. It’s so self-destructive, that behavior,” she says. Couric also questions the wisdom of workplace affairs as she insists she always kept a wall between her professional and personal lives.
“Is it worth it? Or comport yourself in that way, get a divorce. Go to your superiors. Do the right thing, for your career, and your personal decisions,” she insists. Despite her shock and sadness over Shell’s exit, Couric did joke that she got into the media business when the word “harass” was two words instead of one.
On Let’s Talk Off Camera, Couric concedes that the lack of privacy that comes with fame has its challenges. “It does do weird things to your head. But you got to remind yourself you put your pants on the same way as everyone else,” she said.
As part of a discussion about Apple TV+’s The Morning Show, of which Couric is a fan, she says, “They probably would have been well served to have a consultant who actually worked at a morning show, because I think some things they get and some things are off, tonally.”
Couric also talks more specifically about her former Today show co-host Matt Lauer’s 2017 NBC firing after a complaint about “inappropriate sexual behavior”: “I remember using the word ‘disgusted’ to talk about Matt’s behavior, and I think my overwhelming emotion is just being so disappointed and so sad.”
“On a human level, it’s hard to see someone, as [then-NBC News chairman] Andy Lack told me when Matt was fired, go from hero to zero. That’s hard to witness,” Couric adds. She observed that media audiences like to see celebrities “fall from grace,” before touching on the recent surprise exits of Tucker Carlson at Fox News and Don Lemon at CNN, with the former’s departure more of a surprise than the latter, in her judgement.
“There’s also a certain sadness. Maybe you don’t like Tucker Carlson. Maybe you don’t like Don Lemon. In Tucker’s case, to lie to the public, you can’t really be rehabilitated from that. But I don’t think anybody should take a lot of joy from seeing people’s downfalls,” Couric insists.
She did, however, allude to emails and other communication that may have led to Carlson’s Fox exit. “There was probably more embarrassing things that would come out, apparently some gross communiques between Tucker Carlson and some of his co-workers,” Couric says as she argues that anchors at Fox News have out-sized influences on programming decisions and output.
“I guess Tucker had the biggest fiefdom of them all, because he got the highest ratings. Even compared to Sean Hannity, he was becoming a bigger star. Maybe they just wanted to send a message that there’s certain things they have to follow,” she adds.
Couric pointed to reports of some Fox News anchors allegedly spreading falsehoods on the air as the network sought to retain viewers. “They were just lying to their viewers, it’s really gross,” she says. “They were so craven and so desperate for ratings and for holding onto viewers, that they sold their souls.”
In addition to her earlier comments on Lauer, Couric also previously addressed her former NBC boss Jeff Zucker, who resigned as CNN president in early 2022 over his relationship with Allison Gollust, who led marketing and communications at the company.
In her 2021 memoir Going There, Couric strongly hinted at a romantic involvement between Zucker and Gollust during her eponymous syndicated TV show, which aired from 2012-2014, which Zucker executive produced. Couric noted that Gollust and her family lived in an apartment above the one Zucker shared with his wife and children in a “cozy arrangement” that struck “everyone who heard about it” as “super strange.” As a close friend of Zucker’s wife, Couric continued, “it made me really uncomfortable.”
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