Matt Lauer calls allegations in Ronan Farrow’s upcoming Catch and Kill book that he sexually assaulted an NBC colleague at the 2014 Sochi Olympics “false,” but the ex-MSNBC host says look at the source.
“The stories about and comments from the brave women who spoke out for the book will be enough to refute anything he has to say,” a representative for Farrow told Deadline today after the disgraced ex-Today co-host penned a long letter proclaiming his innocence.
As more claims about Lauer’s misconduct are unveiled in the lead-up to the October 15 release of Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators, the frequently controversy defusing chair of NBC News penned some words of his own to staff about former long-time employee Lauer and the aborted probe of Harvey Weinstein In a clearly constructed campaign of repudiation, this follows Farrow’s published snipes at the unit of their handling of Lauer and his own then stalled investigation of the now much accused Weinstein back in 2017.
After several months trying to get to the blackened heart of the seemingly decades of vile behavior by the Oscar winning producer and one-time Hollywood powerhouse, Farrow split with NBC News in the summer of 2017. The ex-Ronan Farrow Daily host took his reporting to the New Yorker, where a number of stories were published on Weinstein and others following the New York Times’ shattering expose on Weinstein in early October 2017.
“Matt Lauer’s conduct in 2014 was appalling and reprehensible – and of course we said so at the time,” declares Lack in his memo of Wednesday (read the full memo below) after the day’s news cycle kicked off with the revelation of the alleged rape of now former NBCer Brooke Nevils by Lauer in Russia five years ago. “The first moment we learned of it was the night of November 27, 2017, and he was fired in 24 hours,” the NBC News boss adds recounting old chronologies. “Any suggestion that we knew prior to that evening or tried to cover up any aspect of Lauer’s conduct is absolutely false and offensive.
“Today, some have questioned why we used the term ‘sexual misconduct’ to describe the reason for Lauer’s firing in the days following,” Lack notes in his correspondence to his team. “We chose those words carefully to precisely mirror the public words at that time of the attorney representing our former NBC colleague.”
Farrow’s messy break with NBC News is not new news, but the details he lays out in excerpts from Catch and Kill depict an organization figuratively deep in bed with Weinstein, who purportedly reached out to Lack directly in an effort to have the never aired story scalped.
As NBC execs has said in the past, today Lack said there was no quid pro quo or deal with Weinstein, Farrow didn’t have the goods.
“After seven months, without one victim or witness on the record, he simply didn’t have a story that met our standard for broadcast nor that of any major news organization,” Lack told staffers in a note clearly meant to be made public instantly. “Not willing to accept that standard and not wanting to get beaten by the New York Times, he asked to take his story to an outlet he claimed was ready to publish right away. Reluctantly, we allowed him to go ahead.”
And nearly two months later, that’s exactly what the New Yorker did.
After several delays, Harvey Weinstein is set to go on trial for rape on January 6, 2020 in NYC. If found guilty, he could spend the rest of his life behind bars. Matt Lauer has not been charged with any crime.
Dumped from Today in 2012, Ann Curry had her own insights on Wednesday on who was telling the truth about the alleged rape when it came to her former co-host and Brooke Nevils:
Brooke Nevils is a credible young woman of good character. She came to NBC News an eager and guileless 20-something, brimming with talent.
I believe she is telling the truth. And that breaks my heart. https://t.co/k4LT3MEh5Q
— Ann Curry (@AnnCurry) October 9, 2019
Here is the full text of Andy Lack’s memo to NBC News staff today:
This morning, reporting around Ronan Farrow’s new book revealed deeply disturbing details related to the incident that led to Matt Lauer’s termination from NBC. I want to take a moment to communicate with you about this.
First, and most importantly, in reading today’s news our hearts go out to our former colleague.
Matt Lauer’s conduct in 2014 was appalling and reprehensible – and of course we said so at the time. The first moment we learned of it was the night of November 27, 2017, and he was fired in 24 hours. Any suggestion that we knew prior to that evening or tried to cover up any aspect of Lauer’s conduct is absolutely false and offensive.
Following Lauer’s firing, NBCU’s legal team did an exhaustive investigation of available records and conducted dozens of interviews of past and present staff. They uncovered no claims or settlements associated with allegations of inappropriate conduct by Lauer before he was fired. Only following his termination did NBCU reach agreements with two women who had come forward for the very first time, and those women have always been free to share their stories about Lauer with anyone they choose.
Today, some have questioned why we used the term “sexual misconduct” to describe the reason for Lauer’s firing in the days following. We chose those words carefully to precisely mirror the public words at that time of the attorney representing our former NBC colleague.
In the past two years we have taken significant steps to improve our culture and ensure we have a workplace where everyone feels safe and respected, as well as protected in raising claims. Since then, we’ve required all NBC News employees to complete in-person workplace behavior trainings and we’ve significantly increased awareness of the ways employees can report concerns – anonymously or otherwise.
In addition to his reporting on Lauer, Farrow’s new book also includes his telling of the NBC News investigation of Harvey Weinstein.
As you know, our news organization is filled with dedicated, professional journalists, including some of the best and most experienced investigative reporters, as well as others who support our reporting with exceptional talent, integrity and decency. It disappoints me to say that even with passage of time, Farrow’s account has become neither more accurate, nor more respectful of the dedicated colleagues he worked with here at NBC News. He uses a variety of tactics to paint a fundamentally untrue picture.
Here are the essential and indisputable facts: NBC News assigned the Harvey Weinstein story to Ronan, we completely supported it over many months with resources – both financial and editorial. After seven months, without one victim or witness on the record, he simply didn’t have a story that met our standard for broadcast nor that of any major news organization. Not willing to accept that standard and not wanting to get beaten by the New York Times, he asked to take his story to an outlet he claimed was ready to publish right away. Reluctantly, we allowed him to go ahead. Fifty-three days later, and five days after the New York Times did indeed break the story, he published an article at the New Yorker that bore little resemblance to the reporting he had while at NBC News.
Let me remind you of who we really are. Our journalists have been at the forefront of blockbuster investigations into sexual harassment and abuse on many stories – many pre-dating Weinstein – including USA Gymnastics, Silicon Valley, Bill Cosby, Jeffrey Epstein, and more. To get across the finish line on big stories like these takes exceptional work, collaboration, patience, and a commitment to a set of standards and practices that ultimately lends our work great credibility.
If you have any questions about the journalistic decisions that were made, please don’t hesitate to ask. Similarly, should you have any questions about the decisions surrounding Matt Lauer’s termination, please do exactly what we all do best here, ask the tough questions.
Thanks for your thoughtfulness and consideration.