'Top of the Morning' eyes Ann Curry 'Today' show ouster

Matt Lauer and Ann Curry attend the Matt Lauer and Ann Curry attend the "TODAY" Show 60th anniversary celebration>> at The Edison Ballroom on January 12, 2012 in New York City. (Getty) Photo Credit:

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A new book on the network morning shows reports that former "Today" co-anchor Ann Curry was pushed off the show by a former producer who called the plan to oust her "Operation Bambi" -- a reference to the classic Disney movie and enduring symbol of innocence.

An excerpt from the book, "Top of the Morning," by New York Times media reporter Brian Stelter -- which was posted on the paper's website Thursday -- also indicated that talks with CNN's Anderson Cooper to replace Matt Lauer were substantive, and had progressed to the point where it was suggested he join in 2014, overlapping the last year of Lauer's contract. Lauer, the excerpt reported, is almost certainly not expected to stay beyond then.

The excerpt noted that "Curry turned out to be out of her depth almost immediately" after her promotion as Lauer's co-anchor in 2011, and her relations -- on screen and off -- with Lauer chilled. The producer, Jim Bell, who has since left "Today" to oversee NBC's Olympic telecasts, decided that she was "out of position," although a colleague said that getting rid of her "would be tantamount to 'killing Bambi,' " the book reports. (Bell has denied using the term "Operation Bambi.")

As Curry's position eroded, the book notes, she even had difficulty getting into the "Today" studios at 30 Rock -- at one point she was "unable to find her security badge," and had to spell out her name to the guard, who apparently did not recognize her.

"Top of the Morning: Inside the Cutthroat World of Morning TV" will be published next week.

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