David Gregory got the bum’s rush from NBC because the network feared a final going-away episode of Meet the Press would create another “Ann Curry moment,” the former Press moderator says in his new memoir How’s Your Faith: An Unlikely Spiritual Journey. Writes Gregory: “Because of this ill-conceived concern, NBC decided not to let me have a final show….I was furious when I heard that. I felt like they were snuffing me out.”
Curry, of course, was the former Today show cohost whose soppy on-air goodbye was hugely humiliating to the network and prompted a public backlash against cohost Matt Lauer. An “Ann Curry moment,” Gregory writes, “has become a byword in the TV business for an on-air embarrassment.”
An excerpt of Gregory’s book, in which he compares his final year at Meet the Press as being “like a marriage that you know is bad but you can’t leave,” was published exclusively on Salon today. It provides a squirm-inducing account of a career in rapid — and public — decline. “Six years after I became moderator of Meet the Press,” Gregory writes, “I was facing the lowest moment of my professional career. I was about to leave the network for good.”
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He then describes what sounds like a pretty horrible way to get the ax: He and wife Beth were onboard a plane en route to pick up their kids from camp when, just before the plane doors closed and Gregory had to power down, he got a call from his agent that he would not be given a proper on-air send-off. “As Beth drove our rental car through the bucolic New England farmlands, I couldn’t stop thinking about how much I wanted to be able to say goodbye to the Meet the Press viewers.”
Gregory says he’d known the end was near, though. Ratings were down, his new boss at NBC News, Deborah Turness, “was pushing us hard to reimagine the show,” NBC and its parent company, Comcast, “had seen sliding ratings on Today as well as Nightly News,” and the Sunday morning news programs “were struggling to retain their place as appointment viewing. Booking guests whom viewers really wanted to see had become more difficult.”
“By the time I made the announcement that I was leaving Meet the Press in August 2014, NBC and I had been in discussions for several weeks,” writes Gregory. “I didn’t want to leave, but I was not happy. I was getting a lot of bad press about falling ratings, and many of the stories speculated on whether I would be replaced.”
Gregory writes that he was frustrated that “people within NBC were leaking stories—saying I was about to be pushed out, in order to weaken my position, even as my bosses were telling me that was not the case. The press coverage seemed excessively personal, as though I had done something wrong.”
Gregory also says that it had become clear to him that he would not land elsewhere at NBC. “Could I have done something else at the network? In theory, yes. But as the damaging leaks kept coming, it became clear to me that they weren’t interested in that. It never came up as an option.”
In addition to the TV tales, How’s Your Faith will chronicle Gregory’s newfound spirituality. “I’d been contemplating living a more spiritual, meaningful existence, and now was the time to walk the walk. In a way, that day up in New Hampshire clarified many of the discoveries I had been making about life and faith.”
The book, published by Simon & Schuster, hits bookstores Tuesday.
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