NBC News announced Wednesday that Matt Lauer has been fired from “Today” after several former and current employees accused him of sexual harassment. Besides exposing his genitals to a female employee, Lauer allegedly gave a sex toy to another employee while repeatedly initiating inappropriate sexual contact with at least three female coworkers.
“On Monday night, we received a detailed complaint from a colleague about inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace by Matt Lauer,” NBC News chairman Andrew Lack wrote in a memo to the staff on Wednesday morning. “It represented, after serious review, a clear violation of our company’s standards. As a result, we’ve decided to terminate his employment. While it is the first complaint about his behavior in the over 20 years he’s been at NBC News, we were also presented with reason to believe this may not have been an isolated incident.”
Lack added, “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.
“We are deeply saddened by this turn of events. But we will face it together as a news organization – and do it in as transparent a manner as we can.”
According to Variety, at least three women have accused Lauer of initiating improper sexual advances at work, making lewd comments, sending inappropriate text messages, and sexual harassment. In addition to giving a colleague a sex toy, Lauer also allegedly invited a female employee into his office before dropping his pants and exposing his penis. Lauer reportedly reprimanded the employee for not engaging in sexual activity with him.
“There were a lot of consensual relationships, but that’s still a problem because of the power he held,” a former NBC producer told Variety. “He couldn’t sleep around town with celebrities or on the road with random people, because he’s Matt Lauer and he’s married. So he’d have to do it within his stable, where he exerted power, and he knew people wouldn’t ever complain.”
Representing a woman who filed a formal complaint against Lauer, civil rights attorney Ari Wilkenfeld stated on Wednesday, “Over the course of several hours, my client detailed egregious acts of sexual harassment and misconduct by Mr. Lauer. In fewer than 35 hours, NBC investigated and removed Mr. Lauer. Our impression at this point is that NBC acted quickly and responsibly, as all companies should when confronted with credible allegations about sexual misconduct in the workplace. It is our hope that NBC will continue to do what it can to repair the damage done to my client – their employee – and any other women who may come forward. While I am impressed by NBC’s response to date, I am awed by the courage my client showed to be the first to raise a complaint and to do so without making any demands other than asking the company do the right thing. This is how the system should work.”
During the “Today” show on Wednesday, Lauer’s co-host Savannah Guthrie said, “How do you reconcile your love for someone with the revelation that they have behaved badly and I don’t know the answer to that. But I do know that this reckoning that so many organizations have been going through is important, it’s long overdue and it must result in workplaces where all women – all people – feel safe and respected.”
Lauer’s dismissal follows the recent termination of NBC News’ senior vice president for booking, Matt Zimmerman, for initiating “inappropriate conduct” with female employees at NBC Universal. NBC News and HBO also fired political analyst Mark Halperin last month for sexually harassing at least a dozen women while previously working at ABC News.