Matt Lauer Accused Of Sexual Harassment
As the co-host of NBC’s Today, Matt Lauer once gave a colleague a sex toy as a present. It included an explicit note about how he wanted to use it on her, which left her mortified, according to Variety.
On another day, he summoned a different female employee to his office, and then dropped his pants, showing her his penis. After the employee declined to do anything, visibly shaken, he reprimanded her for not engaging in a sexual act.
He would sometimes quiz female producers about who they’d slept with, offering to trade names. And he loved to engage in a crass quiz game with men and women in the office: “f—, marry, or kill,” in which he would identify the female co-hosts that he’d most like to sleep with.
These accounts of Lauer’s behavior at NBC are the result of a two-month investigation by Variety, with dozens of interviews with current and former staffers. Variety has talked to three women who identified themselves as victims of sexual harassment by Matt Lauer, and their stories have been corroborated by friends or colleagues that they told at the time. They have asked for now to remain unnamed, fearing professional repercussions.
On Wednesday, NBC announced that Lauer was fired from Today. It was a stunning move for a co-host who was widely considered the crown jewel of the network’s news division, with a $25 million annual salary. The cause of his dismissal, according to sources, was a detailed complaint from another current NBC employee about inappropriate sexual conduct from Lauer that started on a trip at the Sochi Olympics in 2014 and continued for several months.
The employee met with human resources at NBC on Monday night. In a statement, NBC News Chairman Andy Lack called this the first complaint about his behavior in over 20 years and acknowledged that it may not be the last: “We were also presented with reason to believe that this may not have been an isolated incident,” Lack said.
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.
It’s not clear if NBC is paying Lauer through the end of his contract, which expires in 2018. Lauer couldn’t be reached for comment.
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. Now, against a series of questions about the future of “Today,” a troubling portrait has emerged of Lauer. In front of the camera, for more than two decades, Matt Lauer had positioned himself as America’s squeaky-clean dad. But behind the scenes, Lauer was a different person.
Despite being married, Lauer was fixated on women, especially their bodies and looks, according to more than 10 accounts from current and former employees. He was known for making lewd comments verbally or over text messages. He once made a suggestive reference to a colleague’s performance in bed and compared it to how she was able to complete her job, according to witnesses to the exchange. For Matt Lauer, work and sex are intertwined.
“There were a lot of consensual relationships, but that’s still a problem because of the power he held,” says a former producer who knew first-hand of these encounters. “He couldn’t sleep around town with celebrities or on the road with random people, because he’s Matt Lauer and he’s married. So he’d have to do it within his stable, where he exerted power, and he knew people wouldn’t ever complain.”