Ashleigh Banfield Recalls 'Challenges' at 2000 Olympics Amid Claims Katie Couric 'Humiliated' Her
By Liz Calvario
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Ashleigh Banfield recalls enduring "professional challenges" while at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia.
The journalist responded to claims that Katie Couric reportedly "humiliated" her during their time working together at NBC during the sporting event.
"I don't want to reopen old wounds, but Sydney certainly was a professional challenge for me," Banfield told the DailyMail. ET has reached out to Couric's rep for comment.
The publication reports that Couric allegedly made her NBC colleague wait outside while she interviewed Olympic gold medalist Michael Johnson. A NBC insider alleges that during Couric's Today interview with Johnson, she did not let Banfield in the room and then made her wait until after her then 9-year-old daughter interviewed the athlete for a school paper. The insider claims that Banfield's NBC Nightly News interview with Johnson was then cut short when she asked about performance-enhancing drugs.
Today had allegedly made a deal to not ask Johnson specifically about the use of performance-enhancing drugs. According to the insider, a senior producer told Banfield that she could ask about the rumors of other athletes using them to enhance their chances at the Olympics.
While Johnson never used drugs, the athlete did return his gold medal for the relay race after one of his teammates admitted to using steroids.
The insider claims that when Banfield asked Johnson the question, Couric reportedly said, "What is she doing? Who does she think she is? This is so embarrassing for me and for the Today show." After the interview wrapped, she reportedly told Banfield, "Eww, that was awkward, Ashleigh. Eww. Awkward."
The insider claims "Couric used that one event to undermine Banfield across NBC News."
According to the publication, Couric mentions her interview with Johnson in her upcoming memoir, Going There, but makes no mention of Banfield.
"Sometimes the over-the-top perks of my job made it hard to keep everyone grounded. How could I not bring the girls to the Olympics in Salt Lake City, Sydney, Athens?" Couric writes. "They met gold medalists; Ellie interviewed sprinter Michael Johnson for a school paper, and he autographed one of his gold running shoes for her."
Couric, however, does write about her relationship with Banfield, even admitting that she gave her the cold shoulder because she thought of her as a threat.
"For a minute there, Ashleigh Banfield was the next big thing; I'd heard her father was telling anyone who'd listen that she was going to replace me," Couric writes. "In that environment, mentorship sometimes felt like self-sabotage."
"I was pretty shocked, I'm not gonna lie. You know, back in 2000, I was a nobody. And so the fact that she considered me a threat, I guess that's flattering," Banfield told ET. "But at the same time, I sure wish I could've benefited from her leadership."
The journalist said she has no "hard feelings," but that she "took issue" with what Couric wrote because it involved her father. "It wasn't true. But I remain steadfast in my admiration for Katie Couric. She is the best in the business at morning television and she always will be in my eyes."
Banfield also questioned her position at NBC, expressing that she hoped Couric's claims weren't a reason why she didn't stay with the company. Banfield now hosts her own show on NewsNation, but parted ways with NBC in 2004.
"I hope my tenure at NBC wasn't cut short because of this," she shared. "I really have always wondered why they cut ends with me, and sort of at the top of my game. It never made sense to me. It's been a 20-year mystery for me. I don't know if this is the reason and it would be unfortunate if it were."