When NBC made the stunning announcement Wednesday morning that it had fired “TODAY” host Matt Lauer after an allegation of inappropriate sexual behavior, a statement released by Andrew Lack, the NBC News chairman, noted, “We were also presented with reason to believe this may not have been an isolated incident.”
Lauer, 59, had been on “TODAY” for 20 years. NBC News said it decided to fire him after a woman met with network executives on Monday to describe her interactions with him. The woman said Lauer’s misconduct started when she was with him covering the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, and that it continued when they returned to New York afterward, according to the New York Times.
In the hours after Lauer’s firing, at least two more women stepped forward with complaints against the morning star, a source with knowledge of the network’s handling of the situation informed the Times.
On Thursday morning, Lauer’s old colleagues on “TODAY” got the chance to report the new accusations about their former colleague. Near the top of the hour, a somber Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb pivoted to Stephanie Gosk. Gosk detailed the allegations published in the Times, in what was a tense morning TV moment. Gosk signed off her report by stating what everyone in the building knew.
“Lauer was scheduled to host the Rockefeller Center Tree Lighting … as you guys know, he was not there last night.”
One of the new accusers who came forward Wednesday was a former NBC employee who said that in 2001, Lauer had called her into his office, locked the door and sexually assaulted her. She gave her account to the Times but did not want to divulge her identity. She said that Lauer began making inappropriate comments to her soon after she started on the show as a producer in the late 1990s.
The Times reported that she said “she passed out and had to be taken to a nurse. She said that she felt helpless because she didn’t want to lose her job, and that she didn’t report the encounter at the time because she felt ashamed.”
The woman who made the initial claim on Monday has not been identified. However, a civil rights lawyer, Ari Wilkenfeld with the firm Wilkenfeld, Herendeen & Atkinson in Washington, said Wednesday that he represented the woman. He praised the bravery of his client in a statement to the Times.
“My client and I met with representatives from NBC’s human resources and legal departments at 6 p.m. on Monday for an interview that lasted several hours,” Wilkenfeld said in the statement. “Our impression at this point is that NBC acted quickly, as all companies should, when confronted with credible allegations of sexual misconduct in the workplace.”
The woman met with the staff from the newspaper on Monday, but she said she was not ready to talk about her situation publicly.