NBC News Terminates Matt Lauer, Citing Complaint About 'Inappropriate Sexual Behavior'

Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images
Matt Lauer appears on the Today show.

"On Monday night, we received a detailed complaint from a colleague about inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace by Matt Lauer," it said.

"Matt Lauer has been terminated from NBC News," the Today Show Twitter feed said early Wednesday (Nov. 29).

"On Monday night, we received a detailed complaint from a colleague about inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace by Matt Lauer," it said. "As a result, we’ve decided to terminate his employment." Lauer had been a staple of the NBC morning news program since joining the program in 1994 as a new anchor, rising to co-anchor in 1998.

Wednesday's 7 a.m. hour of the morning show, hosted by Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb, covered the news. Lauer signed a new two-year, $20 million contract in 2016 that extended through 2018. The news is a major blow to Today, as the new deal was designed to keep him in the anchor chair where he has long been a source of stability through at least 2018. Lauer has been with the sprawling morning telecast, alongside a rotating cast of co-hosts, since 1997.

NBC News in a report on the firing said NBC News chairman Andrew Lack said in a memo to employees that the complaint prompted a "serious review" and represented a "clear violation of our company's standards." It quoted Lack as saying that this was the first complaint lodged against Lauer, 59, since he took over as anchor of the show in 1997, but there was "reason to believe" it wasn't an isolated incident. Indeed, since disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein's behavior was exposed in early October, men in powerful positions have been ousted from their jobs with mind-boggling swiftness. And multiple journalists had been digging into Lauer's behavior, while social media was abuzz with speculation about Lauer. 

On Today, Savannah Guthrie, joined at the Today anchor desk with Hoda Kotb, shakily made the announcement to Today’s viewers: "Hoda is here with me this morning because this is a sad morning at Today and NBC News," said Guthrie.

"For the moment all we can say is that we are heartbroken. I'm heartbroken for Matt. He is my dear, dear friend and my partner and he is beloved by many, many people here. And I'm heartbroken for the brave colleague who came forward to tell her story and any other women who have their own stories to tell," Guthrie said, close to tears.

Kotb told viewers: "This is a very tough morning for both of us. I've known Matt for 15 years as a friend and as a colleague." Saying she was also woken up with the news pre-dawn, she echoed, "It's hard to reconcile what we are hearing with the man who we know who walks in this building every day."

Of course, the news comes less than two weeks after rival morning show CBS This Morning found itself in a similar situation, with hosts Gayle King and Norah O’Donnell forced to announce the news of Charlie Rose’s termination amid sexual harassment allegations. King and O’Donnell noted the de ja vu nature of the situation now occurring at Today during their Wednesday morning report of the Lauer news. Meanwhile at Today, longtime Lauer colleagues including Guthrie and Al Roker appeared devastated by the news.

Over on ABC's Good Morning America, Robin Roberts — sitting between Michael Strahan and George Stephanopoulos — noted the optics of these shows’ women left to deliver news of sexual misconduct about their close colleagues. “You can just tell that they’re grappling with this,” said Roberts. “But they all have spoken about the bravery of their colleagues.” Stephanopoulos added: “This is not over yet, we have a long long way to go.”

Pres. Trump -- the subject of multiple sexual assault allegations during the presidential election -- tweeted about the Lauer news early in the morning.

Guthrie also told Today viewers: "We are grappling with a dilemma that 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? And I don't know the answer to that." She added: "But I do know that this reckoning that so many organizations have been going through is important. It's long overdue and it must resolve in workplaces where all women, all people, feel respected."

Guthrie also said: "We just learned this moments ago, just this morning. As I'm sure you can imagine we are devastated and we are still processing all of this. I will tell you that right now we do not know more than what we just shared with you. But we will be covering the story as reporters, as journalists. I'm sure we will be learning more details in the hours and days to come and we will share that with you."

Guthrie opened the 8 a.m. hour with a report from Stephanie Gosk on the news and a recap of the co-hosts opening the show with the report. Gosk added that an NBC spokesperson said the accuser described inappropriate sexual behavior throughout 2014 and that because of the seriousness of the accusations, together with the information that it might not be an isolated incident, NBC decided to terminate Lauer's contract.

Lack's full memo:

Dear Colleagues,

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.

Andy

This article originally appeared on THR.com.