Batten down the hatches, morning show watchers! A storm will be brewing tomorrow at precisely the same time as your cup o’ Joe. As we reported yesterday, Sarah Palin will guest host the Today show tomorrow morning. Elsewhere on the airwaves, Palin’s former nemesis Katie Couric, a beloved former Today anchor, will be in her second day of a week-long stint at Good Morning America.
Under normal circumstances, this head-on competition between two such charismatic and formidable figures is the stuff producers pray to the ratings gods for. Add to that the contentious relationship between the news anchor and the conservative political star, and now you have a full-on media event. Below, refresh your memory of Couric and Palin’s first encounter, then tell us which woman you’ll be watching.
Couric met Palin in September 2008 during an extensive interview with the then-governor of Alaska, who had just been announced as John McCain’s running mate on Aug. 29. Though Couric left Today to anchor the CBS Evening News in 2006, this interview proved a defining moment for her career — and, indeed, for Palin’s. By McCain campaign manager Steve Schmidt’s own admission, what transpired between Couric and Palin “was the most consequential interview from a negative perspective that a candidate for national office has gone through.”
There were several times Palin was caught off guard, particularly when Couric asked her which newspapers she read and Palin was hard-pressed to name a single one. Palin’s underwhelming performance started a downturn for her credibility, reinforced parodies from the likes of Saturday Night Live, and sowed seeds of discontent in her campaign when some staffers claimed she had refused to prepare properly. Conversely, Couric received the Walter Cronkite Award for Journalism Excellence and the Alfred I. duPont–Columbia University Award for the interview.
Long after Barack Obama beat McCain for the presidency, the interview still figured into Palin’s public appearances. In 2009, she dismissively called Couric “the perky one” in an interview with Oprah Winfrey and wrote in her memoir Going Rogue that Couric had been “badgering.” The next year, she definitively refused to “waste [her] time” speaking to Couric ever again. For her part, Couric has remained mostly quiet on the flap, insisting she didn’t bring ideology into the interview and saying, “My goal was simply to be a conduit to allow [Palin] to express her views and give those watching a chance to come to their own conclusions.”
As for this morning’s GMA kick-off, Couric remained mum on the return of Palin. I suspect she will do the same tomorrow. As for Palin, it’s well proven that she’s unpredictable under pressure and unafraid of conflict, so it’s anyone’s guess if the subject of Couric will be addressed. This morning, her Today partner Matt Lauer called her on the phone and jokingly asked if she’d been reading newspapers in preparation for tomorrow’s appearance.
Either way, PopWatchers, will you be watching? If so, exercise your democratic rights and vote for your chosen candidate anchor below.