NBC News Chief Calls Matt Lauer's Behavior "Appalling"; Vows "Thorough Review"

NBC News chairman Andrew Lack sent out a new staff memo on Friday.

NBC News chairman Andrew Lack called Matt Lauer’s behavior “appalling” and vowed to undertake a “thorough and timely review of what happened.” Lack’s comments came in a company-wide email on Friday morning, two days after the organization terminated Lauer.

At this point, NBC News has heard from three women with complaints about Lauer. The first woman who came forward on Monday night detailed numerous abuses that began in 2014 at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, and continued for months afterward. That complaint led to Lauer’s termination on Tuesday night. But since Wednesday, when reports in Variety and the New York Times detailed what appears to be decades of inappropriate and abusive behavior toward young women on Today, two more women have filed complaints against Lauer.

The Today anchor’s downfall has been a shock to many at the news division who are asking why and how NBC News management failed vulnerable young employees.

Lack acknowledged the turmoil in his memo: “Many of you have asked what we are doing to learn as much as we can about the circumstances around Matt Lauer's appalling behavior, why this was able to happen, and why it wasn’t reported sooner.”

Lack has a long history at NBC News. He was president of the division from 1993 to 2001, when he moved into the COO role at NBC. In 1994, he tapped Lauer, who started on WNBC and then became Today’s newsreader, to replace Bryant Gumbel as the co-host of program alongside Katie Couric. It was a highly successful pairing that set the show on a 16-year morning news winning streak. Lack returned to NBC News in early 2015, in the wake of Brian Williams’ ouster from Nightly News. He is known for his deft management of talent and has had a close relationship with many top anchors, including Lauer. One former NBC News executive characterized him as “the Lauer whisperer.”

In news reports, some accusers have asserted that they took their complaints about Lauer’s behavior — which allegedly included lewd texts and notes pressuring young production assistants and bookers to have sex with him — to Today show management, but those complaints fell on deaf ears due to Lauer’s perceived power at the show and the news division overall. NBC News has strenuously pushed back on the implication that executives knew of Lauer’s apparent predatory behavior. 

“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 network said in a statement on Wednesday.

Lack's full memo.

Dear Colleagues,

The most vital thing we’ve done since terminating Matt Lauer’s employment on Tuesday night has been spending time listening to your concerns, your feedback, your ideas on how we move forward as an organization.

As I said in my note on Wednesday: 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.

Many of you have asked what we are doing to learn as much as we can about the circumstances around Matt Lauer's appalling behavior, why this was able to happen, and why it wasn’t reported sooner.

This week we saw that when an employee comes forward to report misconduct, the system works. The complaint is quickly assessed and meaningful action is taken. But we also learned that we must do a much better job of making people feel empowered to take that crucial first step of reporting bad behavior.

To that end, I have three things to share with you.

A team of the most experienced NBCUniversal Legal and Human Resources leaders have begun a thorough and timely review of what happened and what we can do to build a culture of greater transparency, openness and respect for each other. At the conclusion of the review we will share what we’ve learned, no matter how painful, and act on it.

Second — while our company has had mandatory online training for all employees on sexual harassment and other workplace issues, we need to do better. Therefore in addition to what is already in place, the News Division is launching an immediate effort to implement in-person training on sexual harassment awareness and appropriate behavior in the workplace. We will share more details on this effort very shortly.

And third — we need to keep communicating. In addition to the meetings we’ve had this week with various show teams and departments, we are encouraging the leaders of every group to have smaller, more informal gatherings to further discuss this crucial issue now and on an ongoing basis.

And, as we have done regularly over the last few months, but cannot do often enough, we want to remind you again that we encourage all employees to speak up and raise any concerns you have about inappropriate conduct you have experienced or observed. We also want to reinforce with our managers and leaders their responsibility to bring forward concerns about inappropriate workplace behavior they see or hear about. It is always the right thing to do, and any concerns raised should be done without fear of retaliation, and with full assurance that they will be investigated.

Here are the multiple avenues available. You can also find these details on the intranet NBCUNow.

Your manager or another news leader
If you have something on your mind your manager often is in the best position to resolve your concern quickly. If you are not comfortable talking to your direct manager you can talk to another news leader.

Reach out to your HR Manager or another member of the news HR team.

Contact an NBCUniversal Resource
If you are not comfortable speaking with someone locally about a concern talk to an NBCUniversal Ombudsperson. Call the NBCUniversal Integrity Helpline US 800-622-6221 or International +44 0 20 36186210, send an email to integrity@nbcuni.com or contact an NBCUniversal Ombudsperson from the list on the NBCUniversal Integrity Website at www.nbcunow.com/integrity/speak-up. Concerns can be raised anonymously.

Contact the Comcast Listens Helpline or visit the Comcast Listens Web Portal
You can call the Comcast Listens Helpline (1-877-40-LISTENS or 1-877-405-4783) or visit the Web Portal (www.ComcastListens.com) to ask a question or raise a concern. The Helpline and Web Portal are both managed by an independent third-party company, which allows you to remain anonymous if you choose.

This has been a very tough week for all of us. Thank you again for your honest feedback. I’ll continue to share information and updates with you in the days and weeks ahead.