UNITED STATES—Journalist Matt Lauer, known for his duties as the anchor of NBC’s “Today” show, was fired following news of an allegation that he sexually harassed a woman a few years earlier.
Lauer’s termination was announced on Wednesday, November 29 by his co-host Savannah Gunthrie, and Hoda Kotb. The show is the centerpiece of NBC’s entire news programing; it is a heavy source of profit for the channel and has been highly rated. Lauer has been with the company since 1994.
Savannah Gunthrie broke the news by reading a letter sent by the NBC chairman, Andy Lack. The letter stated that, on Monday night, the network “received a detailed complaint from a colleague about inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace by Matt Lauer. It represented, after serious review, a clear violation of our company’s standards. As a result, we’ve decided to terminate his employment.” The letter went on to state that, while it was only the first complaint leveled at Lauer in his 20 years at the channel, they “were also presented with reason to believe this may not have been an isolated incident.” At the end of the letter, Lack wrote “we were 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.”
Both the New York Post and CNN had information connected to Lauer’s misconduct. According to the New York Post, a woman came forward claiming Lauer had shown inappropriate behavior toward her during his coverage of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia. According to an NBC insider for the New York Post, the woman “didn’t go to the media, she made a complaint to NBC’s human resources.”
CNN reported that the New York Times contacted the alleged woman accusing Lauer and was working on a write-up about the incident when she reported it to human resources.
Ari Wilkenfeld, the accuser’s lawyer, released a statement noting “my client and I met with representatives from NBC’s Human Resources and Legal Department at 6 p.m. on Monday. Over the course of several hours, my client detailed egregious acts of sexual harassment and misconduct by Mr. Lauer. In fewer than 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.”
News about Lauer’s termination broke just before the program began shooting. Gunthrie, choked up with emotions while reading to the public about Lauer’s firing. After finishing Lack’s letter, Gunthrie stated, “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.” Fellow anchor and weatherman Al Roker was also surprised by the news. Kotb, who had been put in as an emergency substitute acknowledged that she had known Lauer for 15 years, and it was “hard to reconcile” the news about the man she had known for so long.
During Thursday’s show, host Savannah Gunthrie read a statement from Lauer.
“There are no words to express my sorrow and regret for the pain I have caused others by words and actions. To the people I have hurt, I am truly sorry. As I am writing this I realize the depth of the damage and disappointment I have left behind at home and at NBC. Some of what is being said about me is untrue or mischaracterized, but there is enough truth in these stories to make me feel embarrassed and ashamed. I regret that my shame is now shared by the people I cherish dearly. Repairing the damage will take a lot of time and soul searching and I’m committed to beginning that effort. It is now my full time job. The last two days have forced me to take a very hard look at my own troubling flaws. It’s been humbling. I am blessed to be surrounded by the people I love. I thank them for their patience and grace.”