The latest - and biggest - casualty from the Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment scandal was revealed moments ago, when NBC announced it fired its leading morning news anchor Matt Lauer over sexual harassment allegations, the network’s president for news said in a memo to staff on Wednesday.
"Today" star Matt Lauer, the highest paid personality in TV news, was fired following "a detailed complaint from a colleague about inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace," NBC News Chairman Andy Lack said in an email to NBC News staff. Lauer, 59, was named a co-anchor of "Today" in January 1997 after three years as the newsreader.
The full email is 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.
CNN said that reporters for The New York Times had been investigating Lauer for several weeks, according to sources who had been contacted by the Times. The firing removes one of the most recognizable personalities on television, and at aa time when morning news programs are increasingly important to network news divisions.
The NY Post reports that Lauer allegedly sexually assaulted a female NBC staffer during the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014.
An NBC insider said Lauer’s alleged victim complained to HR on Monday: “This happened so quickly. She didn’t go to the media, she made a complaint to NBC’s human resources, and her evidence was so compelling that Matt was fired on Tuesday night. The victim says she has evidence that this has also happened to other women, but so far we don’t have evidence of that.”
Another source told Page Six that the decision to fire Lauer was made late Tuesday night by NBC News chairman Andy Lack.
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The memo announcing the termination of Lauer was read on air during the Today show this morning. Lauer’s co-host, Savannah Guthrie, announced the news on live TV. Appearing on the verge of tears, Guthrie said,
"This is a sad morning at 'Today' and NBC News," she said. "As I'm sure you can understand, we are devastated. All we can say is we are heartbroken; I’m heartbroken for Matt. He is my dear, dear colleague."
She described Lauer as “a dear, dear friend,” and said she was “heartbroken for the brave colleague who came forward to tell her story." Calling Lauer’s termination part of a national reckoning, she asked “How do you reconcile your love for someone with the revelation that they have behaved badly?”
Hoda Kotb, on the set with Guthrie, said she has known Lauer for years and "loved him as a friend and a colleague." "It's hard to reconcile the man who walks in every day" with the person who was identified in the complaint, she said.
Matt Lauer has been terminated from NBC News. On Monday night, we received a detailed complaint from a colleague about inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace by Matt Lauer. As a result, we’ve decided to terminate his employment. pic.twitter.com/1A3UAZpvPb— TODAY (@TODAYshow) November 29, 2017
Ironically, it was none other than Matt Lauer grilling Bill O'Reilly over sexual harassment:
This didn't age well. Matt Lauer grills Bill O'reilly over sexual harassment pic.twitter.com/jWMHt2LORe— The_Real_Fly (@The_Real_Fly) November 29, 2017
Moments after the news, a gloating President Trump seized on Lauer's termination, going on to ask in a tweet when executives at NBC and Comcast, the network’s parent company, would “be fired for putting out so much fake news.”
"Wow, Matt Lauer was just fired from NBC for “inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace.” But when will the top executives at NBC & Comcast be fired for putting out so much Fake News. Check out Andy Lack’s past!"
Wow, Matt Lauer was just fired from NBC for “inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace.” But when will the top executives at NBC & Comcast be fired for putting out so much Fake News. Check out Andy Lack’s past!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 29, 2017
He then followed up with the following: "So now that Matt Lauer is gone when will the Fake News practitioners at NBC be terminating the contract of Phil Griffin? And will they terminate low ratings Joe Scarborough based on the “unsolved mystery” that took place in Florida years ago? Investigate!"
So now that Matt Lauer is gone when will the Fake News practitioners at NBC be terminating the contract of Phil Griffin? And will they terminate low ratings Joe Scarborough based on the “unsolved mystery” that took place in Florida years ago? Investigate!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 29, 2017