The anchors, who became the NBC News show’s first female co-anchors in 66 years after the ouster of Lauer, were responding to claims revealed in Ronan Farrow’s explosive new book, Catch and Kill, which focuses on his investigation into Harvey Weinstein. In the upcoming book and in his first interview for The Hollywood Reporter‘s cover story, Farrow details secret payouts at NBC News and how Lauer may have played a role in the network’s decision to kill the journalist’s Weinstein exposé in 2017 that kicked off the #MeToo movement.
Catch and Kill also uncovers seven allegations of workplace misconduct by Lauer and details for the first time the complaint that led to his firing. On Wednesday, Guthrie and Kotb referenced that complaint from Meredith Vieira’s former assistant Brooke Nevils. Nevils brought her complaint of an alleged assault that took place in Sochi during the 2014 Winter Olympics to HR in November 2017, and Lauer was ousted the following day.
“I feel like we owe it to our viewers to pause for a moment,” Guthrie began. “This is shocking and appalling, and I honestly don’t know even know what to say about it. I know it wasn’t easy for our colleague Brooke to come forward then. It is not easy now, and we support her and any women who come forward with claims. And it is just very painful. For all of us at NBC who are at the Today show, it is very, very difficult.”
Kotb, who was announced as Lauer’s permanent replacement as co-anchor of Today‘s first two hours in early 2018, told viewers she’d prayed before the show about how to handle the news: “You feel like you’ve known someone for 12 years, you feel like you know them inside and out, and all of a sudden a door opens up and it’s a part of them you didn’t know. We don’t know all the facts in all of this, but they are not allegations of an affair — they are allegations of a crime. I think that’s shocking to all of us here who have sat with Matt for many, many years. I think we’re going to continue to process this part of this horrific story and our thoughts are with Brooke — it’s not easy to come forward. It’s not easy at all.”
Later on Wednesday, Lauer denied the claims in an open letter, calling his relationship with Nevils “consensual.” He wrote, in part, “I had an extramarital affair with Brooke Nevils in 2014. It began when she came to my hotel room very late one night in Sochi, Russia. We engaged in a variety of sexual acts. We performed oral sex on each other, we had vaginal sex, and we had anal sex. Each act was mutual and completely consensual.”
Former Today co-anchor Ann Curry also on Wednesday responded by describing Nevils as a “credible young woman of good character. She came to NBC News an eager and guileless 20-something, brimming with talent. I believe she is telling the truth. And that breaks my heart,” she tweeted.
In Catch and Kill and in THR‘s cover story, Farrow asserts that NBC used methods to cover up and neutralize reporting about the former Today anchor’s behavior. A former Today staffer, whose name was withheld by THR at Farrow’s request, also tells her story for the first time about an alleged incident with Lauer that occurred in 2010, which she recounted to Curry. Curry told two senior executives, but the woman was asked to sign a “release of rights,” which prevents a legal claim from being filed. In 2017, according to Farrow when speaking to THR, another senior Today staffer “received a seven-figure payout in exchange for signing a nondisclosure agreement.” (NBC maintains that it had no knowledge of Lauer’s behavior before he was fired; chairman Andy Lack responded in a staff memo on Wednesday, saying Farrow’s book paints “a fundamentally untrue picture.”)
“There are several striking examples of the way in which that routine corporate practice of covering up and paying out to get rid of allegations of misconduct rather than addressing them or removing the people involved intersected with my [Weinstein] reporting in a very direct way,” Farrow tells THR in Wednesday’s cover story. “That is not an appropriate corporate practice when you are a news outlet.”
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) October 9, 2019
Oct. 9, 8:30 a.m. Updated to include details of Nevils’ complaint.
Oct. 9, 12:35 p.m. Updated with Curry’s tweet.