Ann Curry "not surprised" by Matt Lauer allegations, says verbal harassment was pervasive at NBC

Last Updated Jan 17, 2018 1:48 PM EST

In her first television interview since leaving NBC, former "Today" show host Ann Curry is speaking out about the firing of her former co-host Matt Lauer and the pervasive "verbal sexual" harassment during her time at NBC. Lauer was fired over "inappropriate sexual behavior" last November

"I can say that I would be surprised if -- if -- many women did not understand that there was a climate of verbal harassment -- that existed. I think it'd be surprising if someone said that they didn't see that. So it was p -- a verbal -- sexual --," she said on "CBS This Morning" Wednesday. 

"She just said that verbal sexual harassment was pervasive," "CBS This Morning" co-host Norah O'Donnell said. 

"Yeah," Curry replied. 

"At -- at NBC at the time when you were there?" O'Donnell said. 

"I don't wanna cause more pain. But no, I'm -- you are asking me a very direct question. I'm an honest person. I wanna tell you that it was. Yes. Period," Curry replied. 

Curry, who's making a much-anticipated return to TV with her new PBS show, "We'll Meet Again," was with NBC's "Today" show for 15 years. She co-anchored alongside Lauer from 2011 to 2012 before a highly publicized break with the broadcast. Curry left NBC in 2015 and created her own production company. 

Asked if Lauer had abused his power, Curry said, "You know, I -- I'm trying to do no harm in these conversations. I can tell you that I -- I am not surprised by the allegations." 

The #MeToo movement and recent tidal wave of sexual misconduct allegations has toppled powerful men in media, politics, and entertainment, including the former co-host of "CBS This Morning," Charlie Rose. Curry says righting the "power imbalance" in the workplace is "absolutely overdue." 

"We clearly are waking up to a reality, an injustice that has been occurring for some time. And I think it will continue to occur until the glass ceiling is finally broken," she said. "I'm not talking about people being attracted to other people. I'm talking about people in the work place who are powerful, who are abusing that power -- and women and men are suffering."

Curry also called for the focus on sexual harassment to move beyond individual accusations. 

"The real question, in my view, is what are we going to do with all of this anger? And it's not just, obviously, about where I used to work. It's not about where you're now working. But it's about the problem that's pervasive across industries in work places across America," she said. "The question is, ultimately, what are we going to do about it?"


FULL TRANSCRIPT: Part I of Ann Curry's interview

NORAH O'DONNELL: Ann Curry is with us now only on "CBS This Morning." 

ANN CURRY: Hi, everybody. It's so great to see you.

GAYLE KING: Hi. Welcome.

O'DONNELL: Good to see you.

CURRY: Thanks for having me.

O'DONNELL: It's great to have you back. It's great to be -- we're gonna talk a lot about your show. But I do think a lotta people wanna hear from you as well because this is your first television interview and a lot has changed in the television landscape on morning television in the last three months. Our former co-host, Charlie Rose, has left. Someone you anchored with, Matt Lauer, has left his broadcast. What do you make of this reckoning?

CURRY: I think it's in general overdue. We clearly are waking up to a reality, an injustice that has been occurring for some time. And I think it will continue to occur until the glass ceiling is finally broken. This is about power, a power imbalance where women are not valued as much as men. I'm not talking about people being attracted to other people. I'm talking about people in the work place who are powerful, who are abusing that power -- and women and men are suffering. And I think the fact that people are speaking out is important and the fact that we are moving against this imbalance of power is absolutely overdue.

O'DONNELL: Do you believe that Matt Lauer abused his power?

CURRY: You know, I -- I'm trying to do no harm in these conversations. I can tell you that I -- I am not surprised by the allegations.

KING: What do you mean by that, Ann?

CURRY: What I mean--

KING: What do you mean that you're not surprised?

CURRY: Because--

KING: You had heard things? You knew things? What does that mean?

CURRY: That means that – in – see now I'm down -- walking down that road. I'm trying not to hurt people. And I know what it's like to be publicly humiliated. I never did anything wrong to be publicly humiliated. And -- and I don't wanna cause that kinda pain to somebody else. But I can say that I -- because you're asking me a very direct question -- I can say that I would be surprised if -- if -- many women did not understand that there was a climate of verbal harassment -- that existed. I think it'd be surprising if someone said that they didn't see that. So it was p -- a verbal -- sexual --

KING: All right, let me stick with the -- the -- the --

O'DONNELL: Sorry, sorry – I just don't, I mean -- she just said verbal sexual harassment was pervasive.              

CURRY: Yeah.

O'DONNELL: At -- at NBC at the time when you were there?

CURRY: You know, I -- I -- I, like, again, I -- I don't wanna -- boy -- I -- you know, I don't wanna cause more pain. But no, I'm -- you are asking me a very direct question. I'm an honest person. I wanna tell you that it was. Yes. Period.

KING: All right. I was gonna -- to pick up on the notion of power. Because in the court of public opinion it was viewed that a powerful man, meaning Matt Lauer, derailed your career. I know that in this crazy business of ours, you know, it's their sandbox. By that I mean management. They get to decide who plays. And it can happen to all of us at any time that we lose our jobs. But in your particular case, in the court of public opinion, many people thought that Matt Lauer was behind you leaving The Today Show. I'd like to know what you feel about that. We've never talked about this and I've always wondering -- wondered your -- your -- last day was very emotional. It was very difficult for you clearly. And I don't wanna upset you here again either.

CURRY: Oh don't worry, I'm not gonna start crying. (LAUGHTER)

KING: Okay. Do you believe that he was behind--

CURRY: And you--

KING: --behind you--

CURRY: You know, you should ask someone else. I'm not the one to ask about that.

KING: You're the only one to ask.

CURRY: No, no, because I -- I don't know what was all behind it. I do know that -- it hurt like hell. It wasn't a fun moment. I've learned a great deal about myself. I've really at this point let it go. I've just let it go. And I -- and I -- and I think that it's time to -- it's been years and I want to sort of really move on from that. I mean, it's -- it's -- it's -- you know, at this point I'm thinking Hakuna Matata. You know, it's just sort of over. But, no, I think -- I think that -- I think that the real question, in my view, is what are we going to do with all of this anger? And it's not just, obviously, about where I used to work. It's not about where you're now working. But it's about the problem that's pervasive across industries in work places across America. And this is actually the issue. And the question is, ultimately, what are we going to do about it? And I-- I wonder if we-- if we keep focusing only on these individual scandals -- if we're actually going to move off of that foot into creating something better in the future.

DICKERSON: Though each of the personal stories add to this new conversation, you tweeted Me Too in October. What did you mean? What was --

CURRY: Well, I think I -- I meant what I just said which is, you know, sorry, John, but is about, you know, the idea that I don't know a single woman -- I don't know a single woman who has not endured some form of sexual harassment. And -- and many women have endured work place sexual harassment. It's happened to me in multiple jobs. And -- and it -- and it is a way of sidelining women. You know, and it's ultimately not only bad for the women it's bad for the companies. And it's bad for our nation because it's a limiting of people. And -- and really ultimately also we should be talking about the victims. We're talking about the scandal, the scandal, scandal. What about the victims? What are we going to do to remove the stigma and the shame? What are we gonna do to make sure these women work and are not sidelined and prevented from contributing to the greater good that we all are trying to do?

DICKERSON: What are we gonna do? 'Cause you're talking about a power imbalance which goes, as you say, outside of just sexual harassment. It goes to the structure of the place that women are entering to and what they face when they come in. So how does that change? Does that mean more women executives? Does it mean taking women coming in? How does that change?

CURRY: Absolutely, John. I think that until the glass ceiling is broken, until the balance of power is even-- and remember that women are one to one in this country. And in many years we are the majority. Right? So until that balance is re—actually occurs then the culture that we're talking about that enables the diminishing of women will continue. And this is really what we need to fix. And this is why breaking the gla-- one of the reasons why breaking the glass ceiling is so important.

KING: Well, there are two women anchoring The Today Show, as you know. Savannah and Hoda. And Savannah I think called it one of the most popular decisions ever made. Did you ever think you would see that? Two women at the table.

CURRY: No, I think that's also overdue. I mean, as you well know many of the viewers of the morning broadcast now are women. It's overwhelmingly women. And so the idea that women are involved -- speaking to women is actually an overdue idea. So -- so absolutely I think it's a good idea.

KING: All right, and one thing, Ann, you said it hurt like hell. You learned a lot about yourself. What's the one thing you learned about yourself that you want us to know about you now?

CURRY: Well, about me, maybe not so much. But about all of us so that when we open our arms wide to life all the good and the bad, if we can just open ourselves wide to it and embrace it, we can learn what we need to learn and we can go on and become better people. And I hope that I've done that -- and -- so that's --

KING: I think Norah said it best when she said your much anticipated return. A lot of people love and care about you. And glad you're back.

CURRY: Thanks.

KING: You're gonna stay for our 8:30 half-hour.

CURRY: Yes, to talk about my new show. (LAUGHTER)

KING: That's why Ann's actually here. Having just worked at--

O'DONNELL: It's so good. It's so good. It's what you do best.

CURRY: I'm excited to tell these stories.

O'DONNELL: Yeah.

CURRY: Thanks.

KING: So we will see Ann Curry back here in our next hour to talk about her new show on PBS. It's called We'll Meet Again

Watch Part II of Ann Curry's interview on "We'll Meet Again"