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Ashleigh Banfield is still reeling from Katie Couric’s explosive new memoir.
The tell-all has the NewsNation host re-examining her time at NBC and wondering whether her onetime idol was behind her ousting — which she said happened without explanation.
“I’ll say this, I got a sense yes,” Banfield, 53, told TMZ of Couric’s meddling. “I was never sure. Let’s not forget, I really didn’t feel like I was a big deal.”
In the former “Today” show host’s tome, “Going There,” which has ruffled feathers all over the media landscape, Couric took aim at everyone from Deborah Norville to Martha Stewart and “Good Morning America” rival Diane Sawyer. (The book will be released by Little, Brown and Company Oct. 26.)
Turning her pen to Banfield, Couric admitted to giving her the cold shoulder because to mentor her would have been “self-sabotage” and there was always someone younger and cuter coming up.
Known for her frosted hair and dark glasses, Banfield joined MSNBC in 2000 and quickly became a rising star at the network. She said that she shouldn’t have been a threat to Couric, who was the golden girl.
“She was everything. She made so much money, and she was so important,” Banfield told TMZ. “And she was so good at her job, and I looked up to her, so I didn’t believe it was possible that anything could have been going on behind the scenes to derail me there . . . I heard a lot of rumors. I really wondered if this is it. It’s really hard to process this, I’m not going to lie.”
Banfield noted that she was at the top of her game while at the Peacock network when she seemingly fell out of favor with the honchos.
“I had just gotten back from Afghanistan. I had a million viewers a night at 9 o’clock. I had been on Leno and Letterman and Carson Daly and ‘The Daily Show.’ ”
She had been the subject of glowing profiles in magazines such as Vogue, and the New York Post touted her as a successor to Couric.
“Then with no warning or explanation, it was just all over. Everything disappeared. They canceled me,” she claimed to TMZ. “They took away my office, my phone, my desk. I wandered aimlessly, literally looking for a desk to sit at for about 10 months.”
Banfield said they eventually cleared out a tape closet for her to work out of until her contract petered out, and she left in 2004.
“So I’ve been going over the last 20 years of why my career just derailed so quickly with no explanation from NBC,” she said, calling her ouster “an emotional gut-punch” that she still isn’t over.
“It broke my heart. It broke my heart. It broke my soul,” she told TMZ, adding that the ’90s were a tough time for females.
“We always felt like we were on the edge of being trashed and cast aside. Ageism for women was so palpable,” she said, adding that the cutthroat atmosphere made her feel she needed Botox as early as her 30s.
Her career’s demise at NBC has long fueled media-world water cooler talk. And in 2007, Banfield attributed her falling stock to a controversial speech she gave at Kansas State University about the Iraq War coverage.
“I sent out a cautionary note to all my colleagues covering this conflict and chastened the press corps not to wave the banner and cover warfare in a jingoistic way,” she told Adweek. “It didn’t sit well with my employers at NBC — who are no longer there. I think they overacted. I was banished. I sat in the outfield for a long time.”
This is the second time Banfield has spoken out about the book, in which Couric, 64, wrote, “I’d heard her father was telling anyone who’d listen that she was going to replace me.”
In a monologue earlier this week, Banfield said at the time, her father was senile and living in a facility.
“I want to correct the record here because you went after my Dad,” she said.