Katie Couric reveals why she took so long to respond to Matt Lauer 'a-- pinching' joke (Exclusive)

Katie Couric has more to say about Matt Lauer's firing. 

ET's Leanne Aguilera sat down with the journalist at Nat Geo's Television Critics Association press day on Saturday, where she revealed why she took so long to speak out on Lauer, with whom she co-hosted the Today show from 1997 to 2006.

"It's been really crushing," Couric said of the allegations against Lauer. "I think there's been a lot of cognitive dissonance for me and a lot of people on the show, and clearly the behavior was unacceptable and shocking for so many of us, and yet we also all knew a side of Matt and many positive attributes."

"So to try to kind of make sense of it has been really, almost impossible and very challenging," she added. 

Couric spoke out about Lauer, who was fired from the Today show in late November for sexual misconduct, for the first time on Saturday in an interview with People, explaining that the scandal surrounding her former co-host has been "painful." 

34 PHOTOS
Katie Couric and Matt Lauer together
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Katie Couric and Matt Lauer together
MACY'S THANKSGIVING DAY PARADE -- Pictured: (l-r) Hosts Katie Couric, Matt Lauer during the 2000 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade (Photo by Craig Blankenhorn/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
THE TODAY SHOW -- Pictured: (l-r) Weatherman Al Roker, co-host Katie Couric, co-host Matt Lauer, co-host Ann Curry (Photo by NBC NewsWire/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Katie Couric, Matt Lauer -- Photo by: Darryl Estrine/NBC/NBC NewsWire
Matt Lauer, Ann Curry, Al Roker and Katie Couric at Al Rokers' Book Party for 'Don't Let Me Stop This Car! Adventures In Fatherhood' held at Fresco Restaurant. (Photo By: Richard Corkery/NY Daily News via Getty Images)
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 12: American television journalists Katie Couric and Matt Lauer hosting the NBC Today Show from Sydney Harbour on September 12, 2000 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Peter Carrette Archive/Getty Images)
MACY'S THANKSGIVING DAY PARADE -- Pictured: (l-r) Hosts Katie Couric, Matt Lauer during the 2001 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade -- Photo by: Eric Liebowitz/NBCU Photo Bank
Al Roker, Katie Couric, and Matt Lauer arrive for the NBC 75th Anniversary celebration taking place live in Studio 8H in Rockefeller Center in New York City, May 5, 2002. Photo by Frank Micelotta/ImageDirect.
Katie Couric and Matt Lauer during NBC 75th Anniversary Celebration at Rockefeller Plaza in New York, New York, United States. (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)
American television news achors Matt Lauer and Katie Couric at NBC's 'Today Show' Book Club launch cocktail party at Branzini Restaurant in The Library Hotel in New York City, New York, June 19, 2002. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Getty Images)
MACY'S 76TH THANKSGIVING DAY PARADE -- Aired 11/28/2002 -- Pictured: (l-r) hosts NBC News' Al Roker, Katie Couric, Matt Lauer at the 2002 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on November 28, 2002 -- NBC Photo: Eric Liebowitz/NBCU Photo Bank
Katie Couric and Matt Lauer during The 'Today' Show's 2004 Concert Series - The Rembrandts at Rockefeller Plaza in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by Derek Storm/FilmMagic)
Al Roker,Katie Couric and Matt Lauer during Queen Latifah Performs at the 2004 'Today' Show Summer Concert Series - September 24, 2004 at Rockefeller Plaza in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by Debra L Rothenberg/FilmMagic)
Katie Couric as Donald Trump, Al Roker as Oprah Winfrey, Matt Lauer as Paris Hilton and Ann Curry as Tina Turner (Photo by Gregory Pace/FilmMagic)
Katie Couric and Matt Lauer during Jennifer Lopez and Fat Joe Perform on The Today Show Concert Series - March 3, 2005 at NBC Studios, Rockafeller Plaza in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by James Devaney/WireImage)
NEW YORK - JUNE 3: 'Today' Show hosts Katie Couric and Matt Lauer wrap up the show after the Black Eyed Peas performed onstage during the Toyota Concert Series on the 'Today' Show June 3, 2005 in New York City. (Photo by Paul Hawthorne/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 14: Today Show host Matt Lauer jokes with Katie Couric at the signing of 'Today's Kitchen Cookbook' at the NBC store on September 14, 2005 in New York City. 'Today's Kitchen Cookbook' features recipes from chefs who have been featured on the Today show. Proceeds from the sale of the book will be donated to the T.J. Martell Foundation, a nationwide organization supporting research into treatments and cures of leukemia, cancer and AIDS. (Photo by Steven A. Henry/Getty Images)
Matt Lauer, Katie Couric and Gretchen Wilson during Gretchen Wilson Performs on the 'Today' Show - September 27, 2005 at NBC Studios Rockafeller Plaza in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by Derek Storm/FilmMagic)
Matt Lauer and Katie Couric (Photo by James Devaney/WireImage)
Matt Lauer and Katie Couric (Photo by James Devaney/WireImage)
MACY'S THANKSGIVING DAY PARADE -- Pictured: (l-r) Al Roker, Katie Couric, Matt Lauer -- (Photo by: Eric Liebowitz/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
NEW YORK - MAY 26: (L-R) NBC Today Show hosts Al Roker, Katie Couric, and Matt Lauer appear during the NBC's Today Show on May 26, 2006 in New York City. (Photo by Brad Barket/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - OCTOBER 24: Katie Couric and Matt Lauer at the NY Friars Club 'Roast' of Matt Lauer held in the Hilton Hotel (Photo by Richard Corkery/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
NEW YORK - MAY 05: TV Personalities Matt Lauer and Katie Couric attend the Museum of the Moving Image Honoring Katie Couric at the St. Regis Hotel on May 5, 2010 in New York City. (Photo by Ben Hider/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 01: (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) Joy Philbin, Matt Lauer, Regis Philbin, Katie Couric and Kathy Lee Gifford attend the New York Giants Super Bowl Pep Rally Luncheon at Michael's on February 1, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for New York Giants)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) 'Today' show co-host Matt Lauer talks with Katie Couric on NBC News' 'Today' show (Photo by Heidi Gutman/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 01: Matt Lauer and Katie Couric attend The New York Observer Relaunch Event on April 1, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 21: Matt Lauer and Katie Couric attend TIME 100 Gala, TIME's 100 Most Influential People In The World at Jazz at Lincoln Center on April 21, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for TIME)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 02: Journalists Katie Couric (L) and Matt Lauer attend the Tenth Annual UNICEF Snowflake Ball at Cipriani Wall Stree on December 2, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images for UNICEF)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 12: Matt Lauer and Katie Couric attend The Robin Hood Foundation's 2015 Benefit at Jacob Javitz Center on May 12, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Matt Lauer, Sally Field, and Katie Couric appear on the 'Today' show on Monday, March 7, 2016 in New York -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Matt Lauer's 20th Anniversary Celebration -- Pictured: (l-r) Katie Couric and anchor Matt Lauer on Friday, January 6, 2017 -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Matt Lauer's 20th Anniversary Celebration -- Pictured: (l-r) Anchor Hoda Kotb, Katie Couric and anchors Matt Lauer, Al Roker and Carson Daly on Friday, January 6, 2017 -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Matt Lauer's 20th Anniversary Celebration -- Pictured: (l-r) Katie Couric and anchor Matt Lauer on Friday, January 6, 2017 -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: Matt Lauer's 20th Anniversary Celebration (l-r) Anchor Al Roker, anchor Savannah Guthrie, anchor Matt Lauer, Katie Couric, anchor Carson Daly and anchor Hoda Kotb on Friday, January 6, 2017 -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
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While speaking with ET on Saturday, she also addressed her 2012 interview on Watch What Happens Live With Andy Cohen, when she quipped that the most annoying thing about Lauer was that he "pinches me on the a** a lot."

"I mean, I think that's very illustrative of the current media landscape, that something can be plucked, and then taken out of context. Like, it's a silly joke on a late night show that was just that, a silly joke, and people, I think, read into everything these days, and I think it just goes with the territory," she shared. "But it was nice for me to be able to say that that was a joke."

"I wanted to say that earlier, but then I thought it would open up a can of worms, and I really needed time to process all of this, like I think a lot of people do when a situation like this happens," she explained. 

Couric, who would not reveal if she's in contact with Lauer -- "That's kind of a personal matter. I think not everything has to be for public consumption these days," she told ET -- also praised current Today co-hosts Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb for how they've handled Lauer's scandal on-air. 

"I mean, we communicate, and listen, it's been a very trying situation in all corners of the world, and all kinds of industries, and you know, people have to move forward," she said. "I think Savannah and Hoda, and the whole Today show staff took a really, very upsetting and incredibly troubling situation and were able to handle with a lot of dignity and grace, and I really applaud them all."

America Inside Out with Katie Couric premieres Wednesday, April 11, at 10 p.m. ET/PT on Nat Geo. 

19 PHOTOS
Matt Lauer and his family through the years
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Matt Lauer and his family through the years
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 18: Jack Matthew Lauer, Romy Lauer, Thijs Lauer and Matt Lauer attend The Philadelphia 76ers vs New York Knicks game at Madison Square Garden on January 18, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by James Devaney/GC Images)
EAST HAMPTON, NY - AUGUST 12: Annette Roque and Matt Lauer attend Apollo in the Hamptons 2017: hosted by Ronald O. Perelman at The Creeks on August 12, 2017 in East Hampton, New York. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Apollo)
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 18: (L-R) Chris Rock, Jack Matthew Lauer, Romy Lauer, Thijs Lauer and Matt Lauer attend The Philadelphia 76ers Vs New York Knicks game at Madison Square Garden on January 18, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by James Devaney/GC Images)
BRIDGEHAMPTON, NY - AUGUST 30: Annette Lauer and Matt Lauer attend the 2015 Hamptons Classic Grand Prix on August 30, 2015 in Bridgehampton, New York. (Photo by Sonia Moskowitz/Getty Images)
EAST HAMPTON, NY - JULY 24: Matt Lauer (L) and Thijs Lauer attend the 'Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation' Special Screening Hosted By Alec Baldwin, Arrivals at United Artists East Hampton Cinema on July 24, 2015 in East Hampton, New York. (Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images for Paramount Pictures Studios)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 22: Annette Roque and Matt Lauer attend the 2013 Animal League America Celebrity gala at The Waldorf=Astoria on November 22, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Desiree Navarro/WireImage)
EAST HAMPTON, NY - AUGUST 17: Matt Lauer and son Jack attend the 65th Anniversary Artists & Writers Celebrity Softball Game at Herrick Park on August 17, 2013 in East Hampton, New York. (Photo by Sonia Moskowitz/Getty Images)
APRIL 26: Annette Lauer and Matt Lauer attend MUSEUM OF THE MOVING IMAGE honors MATT LAUER and DEBRA L LEE at St Regis Hotel N.Y.C. on April 26, 2007. (Photo by CHANCE YEH /Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 25: Matt Lauer and Jack Lauer attend the Milwaukee Bucks vs New York Knicks game at Madison Square Garden on March 25, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by James Devaney/WireImage)
Matt Lauer and wife Annette Roque Lauer during 2nd Annual UNICEF Snowflake Ball - Arrivals at The Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by Robin Platzer/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 28: (ITALY OUT; NEWSDAY, NY DAILY NEWS OUT) TV personality Matt Lauer (L) walks on Park Ave. with his son Jack February 28, 2007 in New York City. (Photo by Arnaldo Magnani/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - APRIL 19: NBC 'Today' show host Matt Lauer and wife Annette Roque arrive for Time Magazine Celebrates New 'Time 100' list of Most Influential People In The World at the Time Warner Center on April 19, 2005 in New York City. (Photo by Paul Hawthorne/Getty Images)
Annette Lauer, Elmo and Matt Lauer at the Cipriani in New York City, New York (Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage)
Annette Roque and Matt Lauer during ASPCA Bergh Ball Honoring Roger A. Caras at Plaza Hotel in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
Matt Lauer and Annette Roque at GQ Man of the Year, New York, October 21, 1998. (Photo by Steve Eichner/Getty Images)
NANTUCKET - JUNE 19: Nantucket Film Festival. Matt Lauer and then-fianc� Annette Roque at Bob and Suzanne Wright?s party at the Nantucket Film Festival, Nantucket, MA June 19, 1998 (Photo by Lindsay Brice/Getty Images)
TODAY -- 'Where in the World is Matt Lauer? 1998: Cairo' -- Pictured: NBC News' Matt Lauer, girlfriend Annette Roque in front of the Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut beneath the cliffs at Deir el Bahari in Giza, Egypt on April 27, 1998 -- Photo by: NBC/NBC NewsWire
TODAY -- 'Where in the World is Matt Lauer? 1998: Cairo' -- Pictured: (l-r) NBC News' Matt Lauer, girlfriend Annette Roque in front of the Great Sphinx of Giza, the Great Pyramid of Giza, and the Pyramid of Khafre in Giza, Egypt on April 27, 1998 -- Photo by: NBC/NBC NewsWire
Matt Lauer, co-host of the NBC television network morning program "Today" arrives with his wife, Dutch model Annette Roque, at the DreamWorks studio party following the 72nd annual Academy Awards March 26 at Spago in Beverly Hills. The DreamWorks film "American Beauty" won five Academy Awards including Best Picture. FSP
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