The alleged victims, who spoke to Variety on the condition of anonymity but whose accounts were also corroborated by friends and colleagues, detailed a pattern of behavior that was inappropriate and abusive. “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,” read the article’s lede paragraph. “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.”
Lauer was fired from NBC, per a statement from NBC News chairman Andy Lack, after a woman lodged a complaint of “inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace” against him on Monday evening. Lauer had worked on the network’s Today for more than two decades, and on Wednesday, was replaced in his usualchair by last-minute addition Hoda Kotb, who sat beside Lauer’s former co-anchor Savannah Guthrie. “I’m heartbroken for Matt,” Guthrie said in the episode’s surreal opening segment. “I’m heartbroken for the brave colleague who came forward to tell their story.” Lack said in his statement that this was, to his knowledge, the first formal complaint filed against Lauer.
NBC did not immediately respond to EW’s request for comment on the allegations reported by Variety and declined to comment for Variety. Lauer could not be reached for comment.
“Despite being married, Lauer was fixated on women, especially their bodies and looks, according to more than 10 accounts from current and former employees,” Variety wrote. “He was known for making lewd comments verbally or over text messages. He once said 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 Lauer, work and sex were intertwined.”
The report also indicates the dramatic steps Lauer allegedly took to protect himself from being reprimanded for his behavior, such as quietly and inappropriately inviting women to his hotel room while traveling and installing “a button under his desk that allowed him to lock his door from the inside.” The latter “allowed him to welcome female employees and initiate inappropriate contact while knowing nobody could walk in on him, according to two women who were sexually harassed by Lauer,” Variety says.
Lauer was fired Wednesday. “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 in his statement. “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.”