Hours after Matt Lauer was fired by NBC News for unspecified sexual misconduct, Variety published a story rife with detailed and disturbing claims about Lauer’s alleged harassment and abuse of women at the Today show.
The report’s author, Ramin Setoodeh, said on Wednesday that NBC News had been aware of the impending story before it fired Lauer. Variety spoke to dozens of people for the report, in which three different women accused him of harassment. Among its claims:
- 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.”
- 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.”
- “His office was in a secluded space, and he had a button under his desk that allowed him to lock his door from the inside without getting up. This afforded him the assurance of privacy. It 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 also reported that Lauer would use Today’s regular international trips to the site of the Olympic Games as opportunities to prey on women. This tracks with reports that his firing was precipitated by a woman’s complaint to NBC that he assaulted her at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi.
Lauer’s power at NBC News is reflected in the report. Today is by far the most important program for the network—bringing in hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue—and Lauer was the undisputed king of the show, earning a reported $20 million a year. He held considerable sway over the jobs of the people around him as well; his dislike of Ann Curry was instrumental in getting her fired from Today in 2012.
It’s not surprising, then, as Variety reported, that when women actually spoke up about his behavior, their stories “fell on deaf ears,” or that people “worried that their careers would be sidelined if they didn’t return his advances.”
The New York Times is also reportedly working on a story about Lauer’s conduct; the paper said on Wednesday that it had spoken with the woman who accused Lauer of misconduct at the Olympics, but that she was not ready to come forward publicly.
Read the full Variety report here.
Update, 5 PM: NBC News issued a carefully worded statement denying that “current NBC News management” had been aware of any claims about Lauer before Monday. That would, of course, not preclude prior NBC News management from knowing about Lauer.
Update, 5:30 PM: The New York Times reported that at least two more women have come forward to accuse Lauer of harassment. “One complaint came from a former employee who said Mr. Lauer had summoned her to his office in 2001 and then had sex with her,” the paper wrote. Between these two women, the three who spoke to Variety, and the woman whose complaint on Monday night was the direct impetus for Lauer’s firing, this brings the number of accusers against him up to at least six.