NBC announced Wednesday morning that long-time host of The Today Show Matt Lauer had been fired after they received a “detailed complaint” of sexual misconduct by a female colleague. According to a memo to NBC News staff by the company’s chairman, Andrew Lack, the colleague and her lawyer made the complaint Monday evening and after a quick internal investigation, Lauer was fired for his “clear violation of [the] company’s standards.” Lack added that there was “reason to believe” the incident — which took place during the 2014 Sochi Olympics — was not an isolated one.
The victim’s lawyer, Ari Wilkenfeld, spoke to The New York Times and said that NBC acted quickly in the face of the accusations. The station’s swift response is refreshing when the American government is dragging its heals on ousting accused sexual assaulters and even endorsing some of them. Even within the entertainment industry, companies seem more inclined to suspend their talent before making the final call to fire them.
“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,” Wilkenfeld said, “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 spent 20 years behind the Today Show desk and his now-former co-host Savannah Guthrie was joined by Hoda Kotb to announce the breaking news this morning. The two grappled with their own emotions in the face of their colleague’s dismissal live on air and said that the issue will be covered in full.
“We just learned this moments ago, just this morning,” Guthrie began, “As I’m sure you can imagine, we are devastated. We are still processing all of this and I will tell you right now that we don’t know more than what we just shared with you. But we will be covering this story as reporters, as journalists.
Matt Lauer has been terminated from NBC News. On Monday night, we received a detailed complaint from a colleague about inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace by Matt Lauer. As a result, we’ve decided to terminate his employment. pic.twitter.com/1A3UAZpvPb
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) November 29, 2017
“All we can say for the moment is that we are heartbroken,” she continued, “I’m heartbroken for Matt. He is my dear, dear friend and my partner and he has been loved by many, many people here. And I’m heartbroken for the dear colleague who came forward to tell her story and any other women who have their own stories to tell. And we are grappling with a dilemma that so many have faced the past few weeks: how do you reconcile your love for someone with the revelation that they have behaved badly?”
Kotb, who has known Lauer for 15 years, added to that sentiment, saying “it’s hard to reconcile what we are hearing with the man who we know.” They both acknowledged too that this wide-spread sexual misconduct “reckoning” is painful but necessary to make the workplace and the world a better and safer place.
While it looks like NBC acted quickly in the face of a direct complaint, there have been rumours of investigations into Lauer circling for weeks. According to CNN, New York Times reporters had been investigating the host for sexual misconduct and NBC executives were aware that there may be damaging stories coming out about him shortly. The New York bureau chief for Variety also tweeted this morning that he and a colleague had been looking into multiple allegations against Lauer for months.
— Ramin Setoodeh (@RaminSetoodeh) November 29, 2017
Lauer also has some well-know public history with showing disrespect for female colleagues. In 2012, after just a year as anchor, Lauer’s then-co-host Ann Curry was ousted, supposedly because of lack of chemistry with Lauer. Curry — who had spent 15 years at the show as news reader –spoke out after her exit, blaming the “boys’ club” atmosphere at The Today Show for her removal as co-host. Her tense relationship with Lauer is pretty obvious as she gives a tearful goodbye and he gives her the coldest temple-kiss we’ve ever seen on live TV.
Vox covered the stories of several other women who were ousted or passed over for promotion during Lauer’s Today Show reign. Reports surrounding these cases have indicated that they were at least in part due to Lauer’s influence.
There was also a weird segment on The Today Show in 2012 where Lauer and the entire cast seem to poke fun at — or at least make light of — sexual assault in the work place. The Daily Show unearthed that little gem for us this morning.
Throwback to 2012 when Matt Lauer was the “real victim” of sexual harassment on the Today show 🤔 pic.twitter.com/mYdnhEV2wv
— The Daily Show (@TheDailyShow) November 29, 2017