Katie's Secret Beau

06/20/2001 AT 11:00 AM EDT

Before "Today" show host Katie Couric, 44, began dating TV sitcom hotshot Tom Werner last year, she was seeing former Clinton White House economic czar Gene Sperling, 42, The Washington Post has just found out. Couric had just re-entered the dating scene after the January 1998 colon cancer death of her husband, Washington lawyer Jay Monohan, said the paper, which reports that Couric and Sperling got as far as a second date and that Katie told friends that she found Sperling to be "smart." There was to have been a third date, according to The Post, but then the couple got stuck in a game of telephone tag. Next thing Sperling knew, he read about Couric and Werner in a gossip column. "We're just friends," Sperling told The Post about where his relationship with Couric stands today. "But," he added, "it was nice to be out with someone shorter than me." Couric did not return calls to The Post, which reveals that she is vacationing in Europe -- with Werner.

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