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Jane Pauley still insists NBC was not trying to force her out by bringing Deborah Norville aboard "Today" but her husband "Doonesbury" cartoonist Garry Trudeau, wasn't so sure.

"His initial reaction to NBC's handling of the whole thing was `slash and burn,"' Pauley said in an interview in July's issue of Ladies' Home Journal."I remember him telling someone that most people in my position would have left tire tracks on Deborah's back.

But not Jane. In fact she says she admires the way Norville has handled all the negative publicity.

"If it had been me getting all that criticism, I would not have been functioning professionally," Pauley said.

"I probably wouldn't have wanted to show my face."

The whole incident has made Pauley more popular than ever. Just last week, she received a standing ovationa when she appeared at the NBC affiliates meeting.

Pauley says she loves what she's doing now - not only is she substituting Tom Brokaw on the "NBC Nightly News" (she was recntly named "sub-anchor" of the broadcast) but she's also developing prime-time specials.

But more than her new job assignments at NBC, she loves getting to spend time with her three children, twins Ross and Rachel, 6 and Thomas, 3.

"If i stayed on the show," she said "I knew I would have less time with the twins because they were in school.

"I didn't feel they'd hold their mother personally accountable for not being there...but I felt guilty because I didn't have the time and increasingly, the energy to give them."

One of the first things she discovered when she stopped doing "Today" was that her kids never tuned in to see mommy on TV.

"They watch Gumby and Bugs Bunny," Pauley said.