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Matt Lauer has been accused of sexual harassment by multiple women in a new report on Wednesday.
Three alleged female victims, who preferred to remain anonymous, spoke to Variety as part of a two-month investigation into the since-ousted Today show anchor. The details range from Lauer giving a sex toy as a present, which came with a note detailing how he wanted to use it on his colleague, to exposing himself to another female employee in his office. When she declined his sexual advance, he reprimanded her, claims the report.
The women claim Lauer quizzed female producers on who they were sleeping with and engaged in “Fuck, marry or kill” games with the men in the office about which female co-hosts they would prefer to have sex with. He had a button under his desk that allowed him to lock his office door to prevent unwanted interruption, according to the women. They also detailed a pattern of Lauer inviting women to his hotel room late at night when traveling to cover the Olympics in various cities over the years.
Their claims were corroborated by dozens of current and former NBC News staffers, and several women said complaints had been filed, and ignored, by the network about the star anchor’s behavior.
NBC has since released a statement saying, “We can say unequivocally, that, prior to Monday night, current NBC News management was never made aware of any complaints about Matt Lauer’s conduct.”
The exposé comes on the same day as news of Lauer’s termination from his longtime post as Today show anchor over a complaint from an NBC News staffer, who also remains unidentified.
Early Wednesday morning, NBC News said they received a detailed complaint from an employee about “inappropriate sexual behavior” in the workplace at the hands of Lauer that took place throughout 2014. As a result, the news network swiftly ended his employment.
Though no further details were offered at the time, NBC News chairman Andrew Lack said in a memo to employees that the complaint — the first lodged against Lauer, 59, since he took over as anchor of the show in 1997 — was not believed to be an isolated incident. A “serious review” into the claim prompted a conclusion that there was a “clear violation of our company’s standards.”
Rumors had been circulated that multiple outlets, including The New York Times, were investigating Lauer. The Hollywood Reporter reported that NBC News staffers were awaiting publication of those stories on Wednesday. Despite rumors that Lauer had consensual relationships with colleagues over the years, the married father of three had not been subject to any internal probe at NBC News. The network did, however, preemptively reach out to the Times and Variety. (After this story published, the Times reported that NBC News received at least two additional Lauer-related complaints on Wednesday.)
Then on Monday night, the accuser came to NBC with details of a number of inappropriate encounters with Lauer including at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, according to an NBC source. The woman also spoke to the Times on Wednesday.
By Tuesday night, Lauer was told he would be terminated for cause and did not fight the decision.
Lauer’s co-anchor Savannah Guthrie reported on the story, alongside Today colleague Hoda Kotb, Wednesday morning and the anchors appeared visibly shaken on-air.
“Hoda is here with me this morning because this is a sad morning at Today and NBC News,” Guthrie said, later vowing to continue to cover the story as it develops. “For the moment all we can say is that we are heartbroken. I’m heartbroken for Matt. He is my dear, dear friend and my partner and he 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.”
Later on Wednesday, an attorney for Lauer’s accuser commended NBC for taking swift action, and for his client’s bravery in coming forward. “Our impression at this point is that NBC acted quickly, as all companies should, when confronted with credible allegations of sexual misconduct in the workplace,” Ari Wilkenfeld of Wilkenfeld Herendeen & Atkinson said in a statement. “While I am encouraged by NBC’s response to date, I am in awe of the courage my client showed to be the first to raise a complaint and to do so without making any demands other than the company do the right thing.”
Lauer had signed a two-year, $20 million contract in 2016 that extended through 2018.
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