Matt Lauer has been fired from NBC over sexual misconduct allegations, the network announced during Wednesday’s TODAY show.
In a statement, read by Lauer’s former co-host Savannah Guthrie, NBC News Chairman Andy Lack explained that a complaint about “inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace” was lodged against the longtime anchor of NBC’s morning show on Monday night. Despite it being the first complaint of its kind against Lauer at the network, Lack added, “we were also presented with reason to believe this may not have been an isolated incident.”
In the aftermath of the announcement, the New York Times reported that the newspaper on Monday afternoon met with the unidentified women who made the complaint against Lauer, but that “she said she was not ready to come forward and tell her story publicly.”
The woman’s attorney — Ari Wilkenfeld of Wilkenfeld, Herendeen & Atkinson in Washington, D.C. — provided the following statement to the Times: “My client and I met with representatives from NBC’s Human Resources and Legal Departments at 6 p.m. on Monday for an interview that lasted several hours. 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. 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.”
“This is a sad morning at TODAY and at NBC News,” a visibily shaken Guthrie said on live television Wednesday, later revealing that she little warning about Lauer’s dismissal: “We just learned this moments ago, just this morning. As I’m sure you can imagine, we are devastated, and we are still processing all of this, and I will tell you right now we do not know more than what I just shared with you, but we will be covering this story as reporters, as journalists. I’m sure we will be learning more details in the hours and days to come, and we promise we will share that with you.”
Motioning to TODAY‘s Hoda Kotb, who was sitting in Lauer’s former anchor chair, Guthrie continued: “Hoda, I mean, you know, for the moment, all we can say is that we are heartbroken. I’m heartbroken for Matt. He is my dear, dear friend and my partner. And he is beloved by many people here. And I’m heartbroken for the brave who came forward to tell her story, and any women who have their own stories to tell.”
Guthrie addressed the recent cascade of sexual misconduct revelations, saying, “We are grappling with a dilemma that so many people have faced these past few weeks: 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.”
Kotb echoed Guthrie’s statement that a cultural shift “had to happen,” adding: “This is a very tough morning for both of us. I’ve loved Matt for 15 years, and I’ve loved him as a friend and as a colleague, and again just like you were saying Savannah, it’s hard to reconcile what we are hearing with the man who we know, who walks in this building every single day. We were both woken up with the news kind of pre-dawn, and we’re trying to process it and make sense of it, and it will take some time for that.”
A staple of the morning news juggernaut, Lauer has been a TODAY co-anchor since taking over for Bryant Gumbel in January 1997. He began his career in local news.
Read Lack’s memo to staff below:
On Monday night, we 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. While it is the first complaint about his behavior in the over twenty years he’s been at NBC News, we were also presented with reason to believe this may not have been an isolated incident.
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. To that end, Noah and I will be meeting with as many of you as possible throughout the day today to answer your questions.