Where, oh, where in the world is Matt Lauer?
Fired from NBC News for “inappropriate sexual behavior.”
After 25 years with NBC and more than 20 as one of the Today Show’s permanent hosts, America’s oldest television network has washed itself clean of one of its most recognizable faces amid evidence of disturbing sexually inappropriate conduct.
While NBC chairman Andy Lack’s statement, read tearfully on-air by Lauer’s former Today co-achor Savannah Guthrie, revealed nothing concerning the specifics of Lauer’s behavior, graphic details of the exploits of a true sexual predator have emerged.
In an exclusive from Variety, a number of women claim to have been boorishly sexually harassed by Lauer. One recounts being reprimanded for refusing Lauer’s half-naked penile advances while trapped in his office; another that Lauer had given her a sex toy as a gift, including “an explicit note about how he wanted to use it on her, which left her mortified.”
The original Page Six article which broke Lauer’s firing states that the specific behavior which led to Lauer being ejected from the network was his conduct in Russia during the 2014 Sochi Olympics, where it is alleged that he would ask female NBC employees to come to his hotel room for sex. More serious harassment occurred in Rio de Janeiro during the 2016 Summer Olympics, according to Mediate.
But the most vile accusation is reserved for a New York Times exposé. One woman has come forward detailing an incident of seemingly coerced sex with Lauer. “One complaint,” the Times says, “came from a former employee who said Mr. Lauer had summoned her to his office in 2001 and then had sex with her.” Though no legally relevant details are given of the intercourse itself, the exposé uses the distressing words, “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.”
But many appear to have known something of Lauer’s sexual inclinations — even Megan Kelly, a newcomer to NBC, who has said she “heard rumors,” along with “dozens” of NBC crew and staffers. Some have even been staring America in the face all along. A first-hand account of sexually inappropriate behavior has surfaced from none other than Lauer’s long-time Today Show co-host Katie Couric.
In a clip from a June 28, 2012 interview released by TMZ, Couric reveals, quite casually, that Lauer regularly touched her sexually during the many years they spent as co-anchors at Studio 1-A. “He pinches me on the ass a lot,” Couric said when asked “What’s Matt’s most annoying habit?” by a cavalier Andy Cohen on Watch What Happens Live. Though said with humous intent at the time, with hindsight, it demonstrates Lauer’s negligible level of respect for his female co-workers — let alone a woman beside whom he hosted the Today Show daily from 1997 to 2006.
Still, just as Couric seemed to have recounted Lauer’s disquieting off-camera behavior in jest at the time, official, on-air Today segments, originally meant to be humorous, now possess a dark and distressing side to them.
On December 29, 2014, Today aired a scripted, half-hour comedy-musical edition which followed in the footsteps of the NBC productions of The Sound of Music and Peter Pan. During the show, Lauer appears to sustain a light wrinkle to his trousers due to a collision with a rushing crew member carrying four empty Today mugs; Lauer then exclaims that the trousers must be ironed again. “I have to re-press my designer slacks,” he complains. He proceeds to remove them, place them on an ironing board, and stand in the hallway in his loud, childish boxer shorts. At the moment Savannah Guthrie, Jenna Bush Hager, Tamron Hall, and Natalie Morales enter, Lauer stands before them while opening his suit jacket and exclaiming, “Drink it in, ladies!” When the female co-hosts mock his bizarre underwear and then leave in disgust, Lauer nags, “Get it while it lasts” as the women retreat. Though quite family-friendly in comparison with the repellence of the leveled accusations, Lauer appears to relish cheerfully displaying his perverted psychology to the innocent eyes of America’s living rooms.
Still, there is likely more to come as various journalists have shared their own ominous statements, targeting not only Lauer but NBC.
“I, and other reporters, have been aware of several women who have come forward privately in the past few months,” wrote Huffington Post blogger Yashar Ali in a series of tweets collected by AOL:
“Even before Weinstein. They weren’t willing to go public though… they were terrified of Matt. Matt Lauer put the fear of God into these women. He had relationships with reporters outside NBC that he cultivated just for this purpose. They knew that.”
“Lauer is among the worst I’ve heard about,” Ali added. “Not in terms of the kind of misconduct but the way in which he manipulated these women into silence. It’s evil, frightening stuff.”
Joining Couric’s reminiscences and Lauer’s on-air bizarre lewdness, Ali’s statements could be interpreted as a challenge to NBC and Andy Lack’s story that the fatal complaint against Lauer “is the first complaint about his behavior in the over twenty years he’s been at NBC News.”
Did NBC know about his behavior in the past? If Ali, an employee of an entirely different organization, along with Couric, Kelly, and an army of staffers, knew of even something of his rapacious proclivities, then why not Andy Lack and other NBC executives?
Only time and others’ honesty will tell.