The details of the sexual harassment complaints against former Today Show host Matt Lauer have finally emerged, and even by 2017 standards, they are pretty remarkable.
But perhaps more disturbing than the details of the actual harassment is the fact that – like the executives at Weinstein Co. and ABC News – the brass at NBC’s news division were repeatedly approached by female employees and warned about Lauer’s behavior. Yet they did nothing, because they didn’t want to jeopardize any of the lucrative advertising deals tied to Today and Lauer.
Fearing being followed by tabloid reporters, Lauer reportedly pursued relationships with female colleagues because he is married and feared being caught cheating. He kept an office in a secluded space at 30 Rock, and even had a button under his desk that allowed him to lock his door from the inside, which is incredibly creepy.
Variety’s story is the result of a monthslong investigation, which suggests that – contrary to the network’s official story – NBC knew the expose was coming and decided to get out in front of it.
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.
In its report, Variety paints Lauer as vain, crude and lecherous – a far cry from the “America’s Dad” image he cultivated at Today.
The daytime host was reportedly “obsessed” with women’s bodies and had numerous affairs with female employees at NBC.
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 Lauer, work and sex were 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.”
In one shocking anecdote, a producer recounted how Lauer exposed himself to her after inviting her to his office.
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 also had a bizarre penchant for playing “f—, marry, kill” with colleagues, a game popular among teenage boys.
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.
He even reportedly gave one colleague a sex toy as a gift with a note saying he’d like to use it on her.
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.
Of course, the complaint that led to Lauer’s dismissal was about inapporpriate sexual contact that started when Lauer and an NBC News team were covering the Olympics in Sochi.
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.
Even the male employees Lauer surrounded himself with at Today were sexual harassers. As Variety reports, the spotlight on Lauer intensified earlier this month, when his longtime booker Matt Zimmerman was fired over sexual harassment complaints. The two were very close, and Lauer had promoted Zimmerman to a high executive position and offered him a powerful perch.
Lauer is undoubtedly one of the most visible media figures to be felled by the widening national conversation about sexual harassment in the workplace. The scandal is yet another embarassment for NBC after the network was criticized for turning down Ronan Farrow’s first Harvey Weinstein expose. With Charlie Rose and Lauer gone, Daytime television has now lost two of its most prominent male co-hosts.
Despite Variety’s reporting to the contrary, one of the heads of NBC News said the network received its first complaint about Lauer in 20 years on Monday.
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.
As is the case with so many of the men who’ve been accused of harassment or rape, Lauer is also a hypocrite. In one memorable interview with Bill O’Reilly after the former Fox star was fired from the network, Lauer applauded the women for having the courage to come forward and accuse someone with so much power.
In an interview with reports after news of Lauer’s firing broke, Megyn Kelly, who recently joined NBC from Fox News, said she knew ahead of time that Charlie Rose was going down, and she said she’d heard rumors about Lauer, according to the Daily Mail.
However, she said she had hoped they weren’t true.
‘I didn’t have any official knowledge but because of the work I do and the stories I cover and the connections I have in the industry, I have a general feel for – I knew the Charlie Rose thing was coming – and I’d heard rumors about Matt but that’s all they were.
In September, Lauer asked Fox News star anchor Bill O’Reilly if he’d ever sent lewd text messages to colleagues. “Think about those … women and what they did,” Lauer said. “They came forward and filed complaints against the biggest star at the network they worked at. Think about how intimidating that must have been. Doesn’t that tell you how strongly they felt about you?”
We couldn’t agree more, Matt.