Ann Curry attends the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice...

Ann Curry attends the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights 2010 Ripple of Hope Awards Dinner in New York. Credit: AP

NBC News is trying to force out Ann Curry as co-anchor of "The Today Show," a year after she replaced Meredith Vieira, the New York Times is reporting.

Citing unnamed executives, the paper says a foreign reporting role has been offered to Curry, who so far has been reluctant to accept the exit offer. In addition, she has hired a well-known Washington, D.C., lawyer and power broker, Robert Barnett, to handle her negotiations. (Barnett handled Bill Clinton's literary negotiations, and has repped many high-powered on-air network anchors and reporters over the years.) 

NBC has declined to comment on the Times report.

The report comes on the heels of a Times review that is pointedly critical of Curry. 

The timing of the news may be critical: the network may have in place a window, not uncommon, in Curry's contract allowing it to renegotiate her contract. Those are often predicated on ratings; if ratings are bad -- and Curry's "Today" did fall behind "Good Morning America" for the first time in 16 years -- then that might be a clause that could impact either salary or tenure. 

In fact, I've reoprted in this space over the last year -- as recently as two weeks ago -- that Curry's tenure has hardly been stellar. She was replaced by Vieira during "Today's" coverage of Queen Elizabeth II's jubilee. Such replacements are almost always indicative of behind-the-scenes problems, though in this case "Today" execs probably made the simple calculus that Vieira would be a better fit for Matt Lauer during the hugely presitigious event. Moroever, keeping Curry off of jubilee coverage was a sharp blow to her that also sent a message: We will replace you when we have a mind to. 

Replacing Curry might not prove so easy. There is no obvious in-house replacement, even though Savannah Guthrie, co-anchor of "Today's" third hour, is believed to be the logical successor. And a precipitous change could trigger audience backlash, not unlike the time Jane Pauley was dumped for Deborah Norville. However, the Times report, citing a source, noted that execs were feeling "real pressure" to complete a transition by July 27, when the Summer Olympics begin.

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