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Jeff Zucker, who was the executive producer of Today in 1997 when Matt Lauer became Katie Couric’s co-anchor, said the allegations against Lauer that led to his termination on Wednesday are “incredibly disturbing” and “incredibly sad.”
“I didn’t know this Matt,” he said at Business Insider’s Ignition conference on Thursday morning.
Asked about his knowledge of Lauer’s “deviant and predatory behavior,” as Zucker called it, he said “that is not something I was ever aware of, or had even heard of, or had even been suggested.” Zucker said there was never a complaint made about Lauer during his tenure on the show.
“There was never a suggestion of that type of deviant, predatory behavior, not even a whisper of it,” Zucker said. “Nothing like that.”
He applauded the women who came forward with stories about Lauer’s misconduct. “You have to feel for the women who endured this and lived with it and have come forward,” he said. But, he pushed back on the idea that the culture at Today was toxic.
In a 1997 New York Times story about Lauer’s new perch on Today, Zucker called him “the hunk next door.” Of Lauer’s appeal to female viewers, he said at the time, “It’s great for us that women are attracted to him. But that wouldn’t work, and Matt wouldn’t succeed, if he couldn’t do the job.”