UPDATED with additional details: NBC News fired longtime Today show anchor Matt Lauer Monday night after receiving a detailed complaint from a colleague about inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace. The stunning news was announced on the program this morning by an emotional Savannah Guthrie, who was seated with Hoda Kotb in Lauer’s place at her side.
Guthrie read a statement from NBC News chairman Andy Lack, in which the honcho said it was the first complaint lodged against Lauer since he was named anchor in 1997. NBC was presented with the information on Monday, as well as “reason to believe this may not have been an isolated incident.” (Watch Guthrie’s announcement below.)
“As you can imagine we are devastated,” Guthrie said, after reading Lack’s statement, telling viewers she had learned of the firing “moments ago.”
Read Lack’s memo to staff below.
The announcement got NBC News out in front of several reports about Lauer that had been in the works at print news outlets, an informed source tells Deadline. New York Post reported Wednesday morning Lauer had allegedly sexually assaulted a female NBC staffer during the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014; she reported it to NBC HR on Monday. In 2016, NBC News signed Lauer to a new contract reputedly worth around $20 million per year in compensation.
“We do not know more than what I just shared with you but we will be covering the story as reporters…and we promise we will share that with you,” Guthrie told Today viewers early Wednesday morning. She described herself as “heartbroken,” and “heartbroken for Matt; he is my dear, dear friend and partner.” Guthrie also commended the “brave colleague who came forward to tell her own story and any other women who have their own stories to tell.”
“We are grappling with a dilemma so many people have faced these past few weeks: How do you reconcile your love for someone with the revelation that they have behaved badly,” Guthrie continued. “This reckoning so many organizations are going through is important; it is long overdue, and it must result in workplaces where all people feel safe and respected… This change had to happen.”
Over on NBC News’ MSNBC program Morning Joe, meanwhile, a “stunned” Willie Geist called Lauer “the most powerful person at NBC News,” acknowledging it “took some real courage” for the person who spoke out to do so.
“[Lauer] is the leader over there; he is in charge,” Geist said of Lauer, noting his “class and dignity” and calling him “one of the guys I have always looked up to in this business, and he taught me a lot.”
NBC’s 9 AM Today host Megyn Kelly took a different approach. She opened her hour acknowledging the anguish she saw on Guthrie and Kotb’s faces. “But when this happens,” she continued, “what we don’t see is the pain on the faces of those who have found the courage to come forward, and it is a terrifying thing to do.”
“We don’t see the career opportunities women lose because of sexual harassment, or the intense stress it causes a woman dealing with it when she comes to work each day. I am thinking of those women this morning, and hoping they are OK. The days to come will not be easy.”
Lauer’s termination comes just one week after CBS News fired its morning show co-host Charlie Rose over sexual harassment claims, ending his five-year run on CBS This Morning and as a 60 Minutes correspondent. Rose was sacked days after eight women accused him of “extremely disturbing and intolerable behavior said to have revolved around his PBS program,” CBS News chief David Rhodes said in a statement at the time. PBS also terminated its relationship with Rose, who has anchored its Charlie Rose interview program since 1991m as did Bloomberg television, which had broadcast reruns of the show.
Lauer is a Today show institution, having previously co-hosted with Ann Curry and Katie Couric during his long run at the country’s most successful morning-show franchise. News of Lauer’s termination sent shock waves through the TV news landscape, and thrilled the President of the United States in Washington.
“A big shock in network television mornings,” John Berman told CNN viewers.
“Shocking,” agreed Good Morning America’s Michael Strahan over at ABC.
“I have a sickening feeling of déjà vu,” acknowledged CBS This Morning co-host Gayle King. “But it does send the message you are not too big to fall. There is now clearly zero tolerance policy and I think that’s a good thing, as painful as this is when this happens to someone we know and care about. I take no joy in this.”
President Donald Trump did, however.
From the White House, Trump tweeted “Wow” of Lauer’s firing. Then, returning to a favorite theme, Trump suggested Lack, NBC and parent Comcast should be investigated for putting out “Fake News,” and that MSNBC chief Phil Griffin get the boot as well as “low rated” Joe Scarborough.
It’s the second time NBC News has acted swiftly when allegations of sexual misbehavior have been brought to its attention. This morning’s announcement comes one month after the division confirmed it had terminated MSNBC contributor Mark Halperin’s contract. That decision came just days after CNN first reported claims of five women, who spoke on condition of anonymity, that veteran journalist Halperin had sexually harassed them when he was working for ABC News. He had been suspended during the investigation.
Here is Lack’s memo to staff about Lauer:
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.
Here is Savannah Guthrie announcing Lauer’s firing on Today: