NBC under scrutiny over Matt Lauer
Dec. 01--NEW YORK -- Even as Matt Lauer apologized for sexual misconduct and NBC prepared for life without him at the "Today" show yesterday, questions lingered about who knew about his behavior and whether women at the network could have been protected.
Lauer was fired late Tuesday after an NBC employee detailed what NBC News chief Andrew Lack described as Lauer's "inappropriate sexual behavior" that began at the Sochi Olympics in 2014. Two other women came forward Wednesday with complaints, with one telling The New York Times that Lauer had sexually assaulted her in his office in 2001. A Variety magazine investigation outlined a pattern of alleged salacious behavior, including three women who said Lauer harassed them.
Lauer's first public response to his firing was read by his former co-host, Savannah Guthrie, on "Today" yesterday.
"I regret that my shame is now shared by the people I cherish dearly," Lauer said in the statement. "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."
Lack said Monday's complaint was the first one management had received about Lauer. In private meetings with NBC staff, he and top deputy Noah Oppenheim -- former executive producer at "Today" -- stressed they were unaware of the activity.
According to Variety, several women said they complained to NBC executives about Lauer's behavior, but their concerns "fell on deaf ears" because the show is so important to the network financially.
After the Variety story was posted and NBC received the additional complaints, the network stressed that no one in "current" NBC News management had been aware of Lauer's behavior.
CNN chief executive Jeff Zucker, who was executive producer of "Today" in the 1990s and eventually rose to head of NBC Universal, said yesterday "there was never even a whisper" that Lauer was engaged in deviant or predatory behavior.
"I've known Matt for 25 years and I didn't know this Matt," Zucker said.
Lauer said in his statement that some of what has been said about him is untrue or mischaracterized, "but there is enough truth in these stories to make me feel embarrassed and ashamed." He did not specify which allegations were true or untrue.