The last time most of us heard from Ann Curry, the former Today show co-host was weeping on national television as she told viewers she was leaving her morning anchor gig—clearly not on her own terms. She wrapped up her cringe-inducing departure with an underhanded remark about being given “some fancy new titles,” walked away from the set, and laid low for a while.
Curry returned as a correspondent for NBC in mid-July to cover the shooting in Aurora, Colo. But now she’s back in the news in a big way as a Twitter heroine, spearheading a crusade for random acts of kindness in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.
“Imagine if all of us committed to 20 mitvahs/acts of kindness to honor each child lost in Newtown. I’m in. If you are RT#20Acts,” Curry tweeted last Sunday, two days after the massacre in Connecticut. The tweet immediately went viral, with tens of thousands of people joining the impromptu social movement, which Curry soon rebranded as #26Acts to include the six adults who were killed as well.
Others have been tweeting #27Acts to include Nancy Lanza, who purchased the guns her son, shooter Adam Lanza used, during the slaughter, even though Nancy has been absent from victim lists in many Newtown memorials.
Curry hasn’t yet addressed that sticky subject, but she’s always managed to be a polarizing figure no matter how hard she tries. She apparently couldn’t cut it as an anchor on Today. “I want more spinach and less sugar in this big meal we give viewers,” she once told The Daily Beast’s Howard Kurtz of her time there. “Sometimes I feel personally our balance isn’t quite right.” She was criticized for not vibing with Matt Lauer; for paling in comparison to her predecessors; for being generally awkward during interviews; for her outlandish fashion choices.
So it must be a welcome change for Curry to come back into the public fold in such a unimpeachably positive way. It’s a wonder the Curry haters haven’t accused her of championing #26Acts in an attempt to make over her besmirched reputation.
Curry has long been a chipper presence of Twitter, so her nonstop #26Acts campaign isn’t a change of pace. But it’s not uncommon for other public figures to use to Twitter to test the fickle waters of fame after a career blunder. A year and a half after Anthony Weiner resigned from Congress amid a sexting scandal that leaked on the social-media platform, he returned to the scene of the crime during Hurricane Sandy, posting a video of damage in Rockaway Beach and urging aid in the area. It was his first tweet since he accidentally posted a photo of his bulging crotch, and arguably part of his ongoing image rehab.
In an article that ran Monday on NBC.com, Curry acknowledged the success of her online experiment and explained how doing small, random acts of kindness helped her deal with the horror of reporting in Darfur in 2007 She said she was compelled to do the same after reporting in Newtown. She was inspired by the number of people who replied to her tweet—“They are the ones who carried the ball. They are the ones who chose what to do”—and so she retweeted their pledges to join the movement.
No doubt those words sounded familiar to NBC watchers. “You are the real Today show family, you are why I have ventured into dangerous places and interviewed dictators and jumped off of planes and bridges and climbed mountains” and a host of other courageous, journalistic endeavors, Curry said during her weepy Today exit.
But this time, instead of being publicly humiliated, she’s being lauded for launching a social movement. Sadly, that kind of heroism doesn’t tend to land one in an anchor’s seat.