Just two months before Matt Lauer was fired from NBC after the network received a complaint against the former Today host over his allegedly “inappropriate sexual behavior,” he interviewed Bill O’Reilly about the allegations of sexual harassment that led to his termination from Fox News.
“You were accused of sexual harassment,” Lauer began. “You said at the time that you did absolutely nothing wrong, do you stand by that?”
“I do,” O’Reilly responded.
Lauer then brought up that O’Reilly was “probably the last guy in the world [Fox] wanted to fire because you were the guy that the ratings and the revenues were built on.”
“You carried that network on your shoulders for a lot of years, so doesn’t it seem safe to assume that the people at Fox News were given a piece of information, or given some evidence, that simply made it impossible for you to stay on at Fox News?” he continued.
However, O’Reilly denied the allegations made against him and added that he had never been accused of misconduct against women – until the claims that ended his career.
In April, The New York Times reported that five women were paid a collective $13 million by Fox News for agreeing not to file lawsuits or speak publicly about allegations that he harassed them. The settlements — involving women who have either worked with O’Reilly or appeared on his show — took place sporadically between 2002 and 2016.
Despite O’Reilly’s denials, Lauer continued to press him, pointing out the cost that the five women who “came forward and filed complaints about the biggest star at the network they worked at” must have gone through. “Think of how intimidating that must have been, how nerve-racking that must have been. Doesn’t that tell you how strongly they felt about the way they were treated by you?”
However, O’Reilly maintained that “my conscious is clear.”
“Nobody’s a perfect person, but I can go to sleep very well knowing that I never mistreated anyone on my watch in 42 years,” O’Reilly added.
“There are no words to express my sorrow and regret for the pain I have caused others by words and actions,” Lauer said. “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 people I love. I thank them for their patience and grace.”
NBC announced early Wednesday that Lauer, 59, had been fired after the network received a “detailed complaint from a colleague about inappropriate sexual behavior” on Monday, with reason to believe “this may not have been an isolated incident.”
A source told PEOPLE that Lauer was let go due to alleged inappropriate sexual behavior throughout 2014, including at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
In a report published Wednesday afternoon by Variety, three anonymous women accused the former newsman of sexual harassment, claiming Lauer had once brought a female employee into this office “and then dropped his pants, showing her his penis.” Lauer then allegedly “reprimanded her for not engaging in a sexual act.”
A former NBC employee – who spoke to the The New York Times on condition of anonymity – also came forward, saying that Lauer sexually assaulted her in 2001. According to the publication, Lauer had been making “inappropriate comments” to her after she started working at the media company in the late 1990s.
When he asked her into his office in 2001, Lauer allegedly proceeded to ask her to unbutton her shirt, which she did. She claims he then pulled down her pants, bent her over a chair and proceeded to have intercourse with her. The unidentified woman claims she blacked out with her pants halfway down and that she woke up on the floor to Lauer asking his assistant to take her to a nurse, according to the Times.
Lauer, who is a father of three, also allegedly gave a female colleague a sex toy as a present.
His wife of 19 years, Dutch model Annette Roque, filed for divorce in 2006 but then withdrew the papers three weeks later.
“He regularly cheated on his wife,” one source told PEOPLE. “Everyone knew. His wife lives in the Hamptons and he lives in the city, but we never heard he made unwanted moves.”
Now, another insider said, “His family is his focus at the moment.”