Matt Lauer, a 20-year veteran of NBC News, has been fired from the network after a colleague filed a complaint against him alleging sexual misconduct.
The announcement was made Wednesday morning, and a report by Variety was published later in the date, detailing further accusations against Lauer from three NBC staffers. One woman told Variety that Lauer summoned her to his office, dropped his pants and showed her his penis. She said she was “visibly shaken” and Lauer “reprimanded her for not engaging in a sexual act.”
The Variety report was in the works, according to the magazine, and also included information gathered from several other current and former NBC employees about the inappropriate behavior they say they witnessed while working with Lauer. He had a button on his desk that would allow him to lock the door without getting up, according to Variety.
“He would sometimes quiz female producers about who they’d slept with, offering to trade names. And he loved to engage in a crass quiz game with men and women in the office: “f—, marry, or kill,” in which he would identify the female co-hosts that he’d most like to sleep with,” Variety reported.
The 56-year-old Lauer has been a co-host on the network’s morning news show, NBC News “Today,” since 1997. His firing is part of what former co-host Savannah Guthrie called a “national reckoning” for people who abuse their power in the workplace by making sexual advances on colleagues or subordinates.
A number of prominent media figures have lost their jobs due to sexual misconduct allegations in the weeks since Harvey Weinstein accusers empowered men and women across the country to come forward about their own experiences. CBS also fired its morning anchor, Charlie Rose, last week after The Washington Post broke a story documenting eight allegations of sexual misconduct against the journalist.
Lauer is the highest profile media figure yet to face consequences for such accusations. He has yet to comment publicly on the matter.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Firing Came After a Woman Filed a Complaint Monday Accusing Lauer of Sexually Harassing Her at the Sochi Olympics in 2014
“On Monday night, we received a detailed complaint from a colleague about inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace by Matt Lauer,” said NBC Chairman Andy Lack in a statement released Wednesday morning. The nature of the allegations against Lauer are unclear, but the New York Post’s Page Six has reported that a source at NBC told them a female colleague has claimed that Lauer sexually harassed her during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. According to Variety, the harassment continued in the months after the Olympics.
Page Six initially reported that the harassment occurred during the Rio Olympics in 2016, but amended the story later Wednesday morning.
“This happened so quickly. She didn’t go to the media, she made a complaint to NBC’s human resources, and her evidence was so compelling that Matt was fired on Tuesday night,” the source told Page Six.
“My client and I met with representatives from NBC’s Human Resources and Legal Department at 6 p.m. on Monday. Over the course of several hours, my client detailed egregious acts of sexual harassment and misconduct by Mr. Lauer,” the accuser’s attorney, Ari Wilkenfeld, said in a statement.
“Our highest priority is to create a workplace environment where everyone feels safe and protected, and to ensure that any actions that run counter to our core values are met with consequences, no matter who the offender,” added Lack in his statement.
2. Another Staffer Says Lauer Gave Her a Sex Toy as a Present & an Explicit Note on How He Wanted to Use It on Her
The Variety report and the NBC statement reveal claims of a pattern of misbehavior by Lauer that includes several incidents. One of the women who told Variety that she was sexually harassed said that Lauer gave her a sex toy along with an explicit note on how he wanted to use it on her.
According to the Variety report, citing 10 accounts from current and former NBC employees, Lauer, who is married, was fixated on women, especially their bodies and looks, and was known to make lewd comments in person and via text messages.
“There were a lot of consensual relationships, but that’s still a problem because of the power he held,” a former producer told Variety. “He couldn’t sleep around town with celebrities or on the road with random people, because he’s Matt Lauer and he’s married. So he’d have to do it within his stable, where he exerted power, and he knew people wouldn’t ever complain.”
According to the statement released by Lack, the allegations were the first ever made against Lauer during his 20-year career with the network. However, Lack said that “we were also presented with reason to believe this may not have been an isolated incident.”
That fact, coupled with the nature of the allegations against Lauer, which Lack stressed were “a clear violation of our company’s standards,” the network decided to terminate Lauer’s employment.
A source told the New York Post’s Page Six, “The victim says she has evidence that this has also happened to other women, but so far we don’t have evidence of that.”
According to Variety, “Several women told Variety they complained to executives at the network about Lauer’s behavior, which fell on deaf ears given the lucrative advertising surrounding “Today.” NBC declined to comment. For most of Lauer’s tenure at “Today,” the morning news show was No. 1 in the ratings, and executives were eager to keep him happy.”
3. ‘Today’ Show Co-Host Savannah Guthrie Made the Announcement Live on Wednesday Morning & the Team Was Visibly Upset On-Air
Guthrie began Wednesday morning’s show by informing the audience that NBC Chairman Andy Lack had just moments ago sent them a letter informing them of Lauer’s termination. “This is a sad morning here at ‘Today’ and at NBC News,” said Guthrie as she struggled to maintain her composure.
“We are still processing all of this. … We do not know more than what I just shared with you, but we will be covering this story as reporters, as journalists,” Lauer’s former co-host Savannah Guthrie said on air Wednesday morning.
Guthrie read the full text of Lack’s letter:
On Monday night, we received a detailed complaint from a colleague about inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace by Matt Lauer. It represented, after serious review, a clear violation of our company’s standards. As a result, we’ve decided to terminate his employment. While it is the first complaint about his behavior in the over twenty years he’s been at NBC News, we were also presented with reason to believe this may not have been an isolated incident.
Our highest priority is to create a workplace environment where everyone feels safe and protected, and to ensure that any actions that run counter to our core values are met with consequences, no matter who the offender.
We are deeply saddened by this turn of events. But we will face it together as a news organization — and do it in as transparent a manner as we can. To that end, Noah and I will be meeting with as many of you as possible throughout the day today to answer your questions.
“As I’m sure you can imagine, we are devastated,” said Guthrie. “We are heartbroken,” she added. “I’m heartbroken for Matt, he is my dear daer friend and my partner, an dhe is beloved by many many people here. And I”m heartbroken for the brave colleague who came forward to tell her story, and any other women who have their own stories to tell.”
“How do you reconcile your love for someone with the revelation that they have behaved badly?” Guthrie said, saying that this dilemma is one that many have faced recently in light of the spate of allegations of sexual misconduct made against powerful national figures.
The New York Times reported that weatherman Al Roker was “visibly shaken” on air. “I’m still trying to process the news,” said Roker on air.
4. Lauer Was Reportedly Under Investigation For Sexual Misconduct by The New York Times in Recent Weeks
CNN reported this morning that more than one source had informed the news network that The New York Times had contacted them over the past few weeks as part of an investigation into Lauer.
The Times has not yet commented on the investigation, but according to Page Six, rumors had been circulating that it centered on Lauer’s alleged sexual misconduct, and that other news outlets were also pursuing the story.
It is not clear if other women are planning to come forward in the New York Times, along with the accuser who filed the complaint Monday and the three women who accused Lauer of sexual harassment in the Variety report.
The four women who have shared their stories about Lauer have not been identified.
5. Lauer Has 3 Children With Wife Annette Roque, a Former J Crew Model, & the Two Nearly Split in 2006
Lauer married former J Crew model Annette Roque in 1998. In 2006, while pregnant with the couple’s third child, Roque filed for divorce, claiming that she had endured “cruel and inhumane treatment” from Lauer. She also alleged that Lauer had a temper, saying that he harbored “extreme anger and hostility” for her.
“The conduct of defendant (Matt) so endangers the physical and mental well-being of plaintiff (Annette) so as to render it unsafe and improper for plaintiff to cohabit with defendant,” said Roque’s divorce lawyer Nancy Chemtob in the document. “Defendant has continuously and repeatedly given higher priority to … personal interests than to his family obligations to plaintiff, causing plaintiff to feel abandoned, isolated and alone in raising the parties’ children.”
The documents came to light in October 2014, eight years after the fact. According to Radar, the couple reconciled a month after the documents were filed and the two were happily married at the time the article was published, said a source.
In 2016, the marriage was also put to the test when rumors surfaced that Lauer was having an affair with fellow “Today” show co-host Natalie Morales. Both parties denied the affair, with Morales adding that the allegations were sexist and demeaning to her professional accomplishments.
According to Page Six, the couple “ostensibly live separate lives, she living full time in the Hamptons with their children, while Matt resides in the city during the week.”