Earlier today, NBC fired Matt Lauer after receiving “a detailed complaint from a colleague about inappropriate sexual behavior” on the part of the longtime Today show anchor. In a statement from the network that Lauer’s ex-colleague Savannah Guthrie read on the air, NBC said this was the first formal complaint it had received about Lauer’s behavior, but that there was “reason to believe” that this was not an isolated incident. Now, Variety has published the results of an extensive investigation into Lauer’s alleged sexual misconduct, and holy shit was that an understatement.
Variety’s report, compiled over the course of two months from dozens of anonymous statements given by Lauer’s former co-workers, reveals a culture of impunity that allowed Lauer to aggressively pursue sexual relationships with female colleagues, openly comment on their appearances, and crudely speculate about their sex lives on set. One source says that Lauer once gave her a sex toy as a gift, along with an explicit note detailing “how he wanted to use it on her,” while another says that one day Lauer called her into his office, dropped his pants to expose his genitals, and then reprimanded her for quickly leaving the room.
The harassment would reportedly escalate when Lauer went on business trips—particularly when he was covering the Olympics—where he would invite NBC colleagues to his hotel room late at night, Harvey Weinstein-style. Perhaps most disturbing of all, back in New York, “his office [at NBC] 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 ... [allowing] him to welcome female employees and initiate inappropriate contact while knowing nobody could walk in on him,” as Variety puts it.
One anonymous source says Lauer was obsessed with having affairs with female subordinates “within his stable, where he exerted power, and he knew people wouldn’t ever complain.” Some of these relationships were consensual, the source says, but “that’s still a problem because of the power he held.” However, the women who spoke to Variety are very clear that their experiences constituted sexual harassment. Several say they had previously complained to network executives about his behavior, only to have their complaints dismissed thanks to Today’s lucrative advertising agreements.
They also say that Lauer’s misconduct was an open secret at NBC, with one former reporter saying of former NBC executives: “They protected the shit out of Matt Lauer.” At the time of his firing (i.e., as of this morning), Lauer was making a $25 million a year salary, according to Time; his contract with NBC is good through 2018, and it’s not clear if NBC will be paying Lauer for the remainder of his contract.
UPDATE, 4:45 p.m.: The New York Times has also published a story saying that two new allegations have been made against Lauer by NBC employees since his firing earlier today. One woman, a former employee, tells the paper that Lauer, as the NYT puts it, “summoned her to his office in 2001 and then had sex with her.” (That sounds rather like assault to us, but the NYT story doesn’t put it in such terms.) The story also says that the report made against Lauer on Monday that led directly to his firing came from a woman who said her involvement with Lauer began while they were in Sochi, Russia, for the Winter Olympics in 2014, and continued after their return to the U.S.