Katie Couric: Rumors Ashleigh Banfield Wanted to Replace Me 'Didn't Bring Out My Generous Side'

"The culture at the time … sometimes made me feel protective of my position," Couric tells PEOPLE

Katie Couric, Ashleigh Banfield
Katie Couric and Ashleigh Banfield. Photo: Rich Fury/VF20/Getty; Lars Niki/Getty

Katie Couric is clarifying her stance after she says words about fellow female journalists in her upcoming memoir Going There were "cherry-picked and twisted" in pre-publication leaks by tabloids.

Of former colleague Ashleigh Banfield, Couric writes in the book that she "heard through the grapevine that her father was telling anyone who'd listen that she was going to replace me. In that environment, mentorship sometimes felt like self-sabotage."

In multiple sit-down interviews with PEOPLE, the former Today co-anchor asserts that there is a difference between being protective of her hard-won position and tearing other women down. (Banfield had responded to the leaked passage by wondering whether Couric's view of her had negatively impacted her career at NBC.) Couric says she never iced Banfield out.

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"Absolutely not," says Couric, 64, in this week's cover story. "I think if someone was openly saying they were going to replace me, I don't think I helped them. I never iced her out. I never criticized her. It just didn't bring out my generous side."

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"The culture at the time and the scarcity of high-profile jobs for women — not to mention the fact that I watched Jane [Pauley] get pushed out [as Today co-anchor in 1989] because of the whims of the men in charge — sometimes made me feel protective of my position," she continues.

In her book, Couric admits to feeling like she needed to "protect my turf" on the morning news show, where she worked from 1991 through 2006, and says she was aware "someone younger and cuter was always around the corner," naming Banfield, 53, as an example.

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Banfield, who was an NBC correspondent in the early 2000s, decided to "correct the record" last month on her NewsNation show. She said Couric's claims about her dad were "just not true."

Banfield said she was "stunned" when she first read the leaked comments, and that when she first met Couric, "she was the queen of television, and nobody was better than Katie."

In an interview TMZ in early October, Banfield discussed Couric's view of her and the abrupt end of her career at the network.

"I've just been going over the last 20 years of why my career just derailed so quickly with no explanation at NBC," she said in a video interview with the outlet. "All I can think about is that I was at the top of my game. I had just come back from Afghanistan, I had a million viewers at night at 9 o'clock... The press on me was huge and it was positive. And just within an instant and with no warning and no explanation, it was just all over. It all disappeared. They canceled me."

"To have them unceremoniously ditch me — it broke my heart, it broke my soul," she added. But Banfield understands why Couric felt like mentorship could be "self-sabotage."

"I don't think it's wrong that Katie felt that way," she told TMZ. "I think that every woman, no matter how successful they were, felt like they were disposable on television."

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In Going There, Couric also addresses sexism in the media. She tells PEOPLE she "defended" and "supported" women however she could in a tough industry.

"I encouraged women that I was working with and who were producing and writing for me and booking stories for me," she says. "I would encourage other reporters and tell them how great they were."

"It was male-dominated," she continues, "and I think I tried to support women wherever I could, however I could."

Going There hits bookstores on Oct. 26.

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