In a statement announcing the firing of “Today” show co-host Matt Lauer on Wednesday, NBC News Chairman Andy Lack said the decision was made after receiving a “detailed complaint” about Lauer’s “inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace.” Lack said it was the first complaint they received about Lauer in the more than 20 years he’d been at the network, though he acknowledged it probably wasn’t the only incident.
But a report from Variety is challenging that account, saying NBC News executives ignored multiple complaints from women about Lauer’s behavior.
The accounts from the women range from Lauer giving one colleague a sex toy, exposing himself to another female colleague, and engaging in crude, sexually-driven office banter with employees.
Variety said the details about Lauer’s past behavior were revealed during a two-month investigation that included interviews with dozens of former and current employees.
And the complaints were not kept secret.
Several women told Variety they complained to executives at the network about Lauer’s behavior, which fell on deaf ears given the lucrative advertising surrounding “Today.” NBC declined to comment. For most of Lauer’s tenure at “Today,” the morning news show was No. 1 in the ratings, and executives were eager to keep him happy. …
Insiders say that NBC was forced to act quickly after this week’s complaint, given the severity of the accusations and the national dialogue around sexual harassment that has ended the careers of Harvey Weinstein, Charlie Rose, Kevin Spacey, Louis C.K. and other prominent men. …
Lauer’s conduct was not a secret among other employees at “Today,” numerous sources say. At least one of the anchors would gossip about stories she had heard, spreading them among the staff. “Management sucks there,” says a former reporter, who asked not to be identified, speaking about executives who previously worked at the show. “They protected the s— out of Matt Lauer.” (Vanity Fair)
"The real focus right now should be on this complete disingenuous behavior by NBC to say, 'I'm shocked,'" a former NBC colleague told Vanity Fair.
Several industry insiders the magazine spoke with said it’s hard to believe Lack, who is close personal friends with Lauer, didn’t know about his behavior.
"I don’t know what everyone is so surprised by," a high-level industry source told the magazine. "This has been going on for months and months and everybody knew it and it was just going to be which girl came forward, and who reported it first."