Yet chairman Andy Lack also announced several NBC News changes moving forward: 'We must do a much better job'

By James Hibberd
December 01, 2017 at 01:25 PM EST
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Nathan Congleton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

NBC News chairman Andy Lack has issued a new statement in the wake of criticism at the company’s handling of former TODAY anchor Matt Lauer.

While the news division acted quickly to fire the longtime anchor after receiving its first formal complaint earlier this week, a number of accusations of inappropriate behavior that have been made by employees since then have caused some to wonder if the network should have known there was an issue earlier and taken action sooner.

In a memo to the staff, Lack defended his company’s current policies (“the system works”) while also suggesting NBC needed to do better to empower employees to come forward. Lack also announced a trio of internal changes or initiatives moving forward that ramp up his company’s tackling of sexual misconduct in the workplace.

Here is Lack:

Many of you have asked what we are doing to learn as much as we can about the circumstance around Matt Lauer’s appalling behavior, why this was able to happen, and why it wasn’t reported sooner.

This week we saw that when an employee comes forward to report misconduct, the system works. The complaint is quickly assessed and meaningful action is taken. But we also learned that we must do a much better job of making people feel empowered to take that crucial first step of reporting bad behavior.

To that end, I have three things to share with you.

A team of the most experienced NBCUniversal Legal and Human Resources leaders have begun a thorough and timely review of what happened and what we can do to build a culture of greater transparency, openness and respect for each other. At the conclusion of the review we will share what we’ve learned, no matter how painful, and act on it.

Second — while our company has had mandatory online training for all employees on sexual harassment and other workplace issues, we need to do better. Therefore, in addition to what is already in place, the News Division is launching an immediate effort to implement in-person training on sexual harassment awareness and appropriate behavior in the workplace. We will share more details on this effort very shortly.

And third — we need to keep communicating. In addition to the meetings we’ve had this week with various show teams and departments, we are encouraging the leaders of every group to have smaller, more informational gatherings to further discuss this crucial issue now and on an ongoing basis.

Lauer was fired Wednesday after two decades of work on NBC and its lucrative morning show, TODAY.

“There are no words to express my sorrow and regret for the pain I have caused others by words and actions,” Lauer said in a statement addressing sexual misconduct claims made against him. “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.”

He added, “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.”

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