CBS Evening News host Katie Couric has revealed the toll that low ratings have taken on her confidence and composure, admitting she has second-guessed her move to CBS at times and even slapped a staffer on set.
In a lengthy profile in New York magazine, the former Today show anchor is self-critical but defiant – acknowledging that her transition has been far from smooth and railing against her detractors, particularly those who criticize her anonymously in the press.
“It’s damaging, and it’s really tacky,” she says. “And I would be so embarrassed to be one of these petty, behind-the-scenes operators who get some kind of charge out of trashing someone. I’m not perfect; I’m sure I’ve said unkind things about people in my career and life, but people getting their jollies from seeing it in print is so creepy and weird to me. And if you’re so unhappy, get another job!”
Her frustration boiled over in June, after news editor Jerry Cipriano used the word “sputum,” a word she detests, in a piece about tuberculosis. Couric subsequently slapped Cipriano “over and over and over again” on the arm, according to eyewitnesses.
“I sort of slapped him around,” Couric admits. “I got mad at him and said, ‘You can’t do this to me. You have to tell me when you’re going to use a word like that.’ I was aggravated, there’s no question about that.” (She adds that the pair made up, and the incident became a kind of running joke on the set.)
After a big opening night back in September 2006, Couric’s ratings have slipped steadily, and CBS has tinkered with her newscast, desperately seeking a formula that works. For Couric, a consistent ratings winner with Today, it has been unfamiliar territory, and she admits occasionally wondering why she took the job.
“I have days when I’m like, ‘Oh my God, what did I do?’ But for some weird reason, they don’t happen that often,” she says.
For now, Couric is vowing to continue as host of the news program. But other possibilities aren’t out of the question, including an expanded role on 60 Minutes.
“If it turns out [the news] wasn’t a perfect fit,” she says, “then, you know, I’ll do something else that’s really exciting and fulfilling for me.”