Yesterday, longtime viewers of NBC’s Today show were shocked and saddened to learn that beloved television journalist Matt Lauer had been suddenly fired.
It was a seismic event for the network where Lauer had worked for over 20 years and which had signed a contract offering him an annual salary of $20 million.
The reason his firing also rattled fans: NBC tweeted that the firing was the result of “a detailed complaint from a colleague about inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace.”
This morning, Lauer broke his silence about the accusations. But rather than providing comfort or closure, his words have prompted more questions than they answer.
“There are no words to express my sorrow and regret for the pain I have caused others by words and actions,” he said in a statement. “To the people I have hurt, I am truly sorry.
“As I am writing this, I realize the depth of the damage and disappointment I have left behind at home and at NBC.
“Some of what is being said about me is untrue or mischaracterized, but there is enough truth in these stories to make me feel embarrassed and ashamed.”
Such chagrin might not only apply to the veteran journalist. Although NBC garnered some praise for its prompt handling of the allegations, new revelations reveal that detailed exposes about Lauer’s behavior were about to go to press — and that some of the network’s higher ups might’ve shielded him from the consequences of his actions.
According to a detailed article in Variety that was corroborated between 10 current and former NBC employees, the accusations weren’t an isolated incident.
Lauer targeted young female subordinates and coerced them into intimate encounters.
Additionally, he once sent coworker a sex toy accompanied by a lewd note.
And to make matters even more disturbing, he had a remote lock installed in his secluded office so that he could secure his door while still seated at his desk, effectively trapping visitors at his whim.
Equally disturbing is the fact that NBC may have been aware of at least some of Lauer’s activity. His presence corresponded with “Today” rising to the top place in the Nielsen ratings.
“Management sucks there,” one former reporter candidly told Variety. “They protected the [expletive] out of Matt Lauer.”
Perhaps and perhaps not. But the cultural winds have shifted — and that’s a good thing.
“The arrival of hard consequences for these men may have come too late in the news industry, but media organizations are unquestionably leading the national reckoning now underway,” New York Times columnist Jim Rutenberg wrote. “For the news business, this is the way it has to be: Its main product, after all, is integrity, which, in the case of the networks, is personified by those who sit behind the desk.”
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