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Atypical in the current climate, news of Lauer’s ouster came ahead of any published reports into Lauer’s behavior. NBC News announced early Wednesday that it had fired Lauer over a detailed complaint from an employee alleging “inappropriate sexual behavior” in the workplace throughout 2014. NBC chairman Andrew Lack said in a memo to staff that the complaint was the first lodged against Lauer, 59, since he took over as anchor of the show in 1997, but that it was not believed to be an isolated incident.
Rumors had been circulating 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 and in the afternoon, Variety published a report from three anonymous women detailing a pattern of sexual harassment at the hands of their NBC News colleague. NBC said in a statement: “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 Times report said NBC has received at least two more complaints related to Lauer on Wednesday, citing a well-placed source. In one of the new complaints, an anonymous former employee claims Lauer summoned her to his office in 2001 and then had sex with her. She told the Times she felt helpless because she didn’t want to lose her job and didn’t report the incident due to shame. Lauer could not be reached for comment.
Despite rumors that Lauer had consensual relationships with colleagues over the years, the married father of three had not been subjected to any internal probe at NBC News ahead of the first staffer’s claim. The anonymous woman 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 earlier on Wednesday, and her attorney applauded her bravery in coming forward “to be the first to raise a complaint and to do so without making any demands other than the company do the right thing.”
According to the Times, Lack, in a division-wide meeting, said Lauer’s involvement with the woman began during the Sochi Olympics and continued when they returned to New York.
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, on Wednesday morning, and the anchors appeared visibly shocked. “For the moment all we can say is that we are heartbroken,” said Guthrie, who vowed to continue reporting on the story. “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.”
When giving the weather report, a similarly shaken Al Roker said, “I’m still trying to process the news.”
Lauer had signed a two-year, $20 million contract in 2016 that extended through 2018. He has yet to comment on any of the claims.
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