AP Television Writer
NEW YORK (AP) -- Josh Elliott said Wednesday that his defection from ABC's "Good Morning America" for NBC is a "deeply personal" move to get back to sports at a level he could not have anticipated.
He spoke in a conference call where NBC announced his hiring to work on future Olympics, NFL football and other events. He turned down an offer to remain at ABC's top-rated morning show to be what he described as "the last man on the bench with the showtime Lakers."
His NBC debut is planned for the May 3 Kentucky Derby broadcast.
"I have loved sports since before I could walk," said Elliott, 42. He said he dreamed of being on an Olympics broadcast before he even knew he wanted to be in television. He worked at Sports Illustrated and then ESPN before 2011 when ABC News President Ben Sherwood played a hunch and hired him as news anchor at "Good Morning America."
The arrival of Elliott and Lara Spencer built a feel-good team in the morning that prospered as "Today" went through the excruciating exit of Ann Curry. Now two members of that team -- Elliott and weather forecaster Sam Champion -- have left within four months of each other.
Elliott said he had not discussed any role at NBC News, where it was almost immediately speculated that he could be a potential successor to Matt Lauer in the morning.
"I hope Matt Lauer is here when I step away from this gig 30 years down the road," he said.
The fallout of his decision, made public Sunday, has been painful and left him feeling like a bit player in an "absurdist melodrama."
"It has been really difficult," he said. "It's been difficult to read categorical falsehood after categorical falsehood."
He credited Sherwood with giving him the big break in his career. He wouldn't comment on Sherwood's memo to ABC News employees announcing his departure this weekend, where Sherwood wrote that "we worked hard to close a significant gap between our generous offer and his expectations."
Sherwood "is and always will be the reason I'm here," Elliott said. "I will forever love him deeply and passionately for it."
ABC said there will likely be a taped tribute to Elliott on "Good Morning America," but it won't include a live appearance by him.
David Bauder can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter@dbauder. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/david-bauder
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