Complaints ranged from making lewd comments about women at work, to gifting a sex toy to a female colleague, to showing his penis to a female employee.
The popular TODAY host, who has been with the show since 1997, has been fired after he was accused of sexual harassment and "inappropriate sexual behavior." The announcement was made on-air Wednesday morning by clearly shocked TODAY co-hosts Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb, who said they had just learned the news.
Savannah read a memo from NBC News president Andrew Lack to viewers, which said, “On Monday night, we received a detailed complaint from a colleague about inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace by Matt Lauer.” According to the memo, a “serious review” was conducted and it was found that the behavior was “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 20 years he’s been at NBC News, we were also presented with reason to believe this may not have been an isolated incident,” the memo continued.
"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," Lack said via the memo.
An article published by Variety on Wednesday afternoon reports that Matt allegedly harassed multiple women during his time at TODAY. Complaints ranged from making lewd comments about women at work, to gifting a sex toy to a female colleague, to showing his penis to a female employee while alone in his office. He also allegedly invited women to his hotel room while he was out of town covering the Olympics, and reportedly singled out female NBC staffers for sexual relationships. "He couldn’t sleep around town with celebrities or on the road with random people," a producer told Variety. "So he’d have to do it within his stable, where he exerted power, and he knew people wouldn’t ever complain."
Although the NBC memo said that this was the first complaint executives had ever received about Matt's behavior, multiple sources told Variety that many complaints were made about Matt that allegedly fell on deaf ears.
Variety had been working on their piece about allegations against Matt Lauer for months before Wednesday's firing. NBC was aware of the reporting, according to reporter Elizabeth Wagmeister. The network declined to comment on the story. CNN reports that the New York Times was also working on its own investigation into Matt's alleged sexual misconduct. The employee who filed the complaint against Matt met with the New York Times on Monday, but said she was not ready to publicly tell her story.
On Wednesday evening, the New York Times reported that NBC received two more complaints about Matt. One woman, who also spoke to the Times but did not want to have her name shared, alleges that Matt sexually assaulted her in his office in 2001. She says that she passed out from the alleged assault and had to be taken to a nurse. She says she didn't report the encounter at the time because she was ashamed, and was scared of losing her job.
Savannah, who has co-anchored with Matt since 2012, acknowledged that this is difficult news to report, saying that she is "heartbroken" for Matt and the "brave colleague who came forward to tell her story and any other women who have their stories to tell." She added, “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.”
Both women made it clear that they were struggling with the news. Hoda, who has worked with Matt for 15 years, said "it's hard to reconcile what we are hearing with the man who we know, who walks in this building every single day."
"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," Savannah said. "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."
In a statement shared on Thursday morning, Matt said, "There are no words to express my sorrow and regret for the pain I have caused others by words and actions," according to TODAY. Savannah read the remarks on-air on the TODAY show.
"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," he said. "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."