Here’s the untold story of that surprise visit by network boss LES MOONVES to the "CBS Evening News" set, where he denounced media reports that KATIE COURIC would be fired for lousy ratings – assuring his beaming anchor, execs and staffers: "Katie is our anchor today, tomorrow, next week – and long into the future!"

Just days before, Katie – freaked by buzz she’d be chopped chop-chop – walked in on her staff as they watched rival NBC’s "Today" hosts KATHIE LEE GIFFORD and HODA KOTB dishing about the demise rumors.

Katie’s rage nudged redline when Kathie Lee smugly cracked: "There really is no shame in failing" – but she exploded when several staffers, unaware she was right behind them, commented that Katie’s low ratings meant firing was inevitable!

"Shut that god–mn thing OFF," she screamed as everyone recoiled. "I mean it, shut it off NOW!"

Staff scattered, but Katie marched straight to the inner sanctum of CEO Moonves and demanded a no-ifs-ands-or-buts public denial from him. Days later, Moonves marched dramatically onto the "CBS Evening News" set and delivered his "Katie Forever" speech. But TV industry wiseguys still advise: Stay tuned.