News chairman Andrew Lack said that, after serious review, the
complaint received on Monday night represented "a clear
violation" of the company's standards.
"As a result, we've decided to terminate his employment," Lack
said in a statement. "While it is the first complaint about his
behavior in the over twenty years heís been at NBC News, we were
also presented with reason to believe this may not have been an
Lauer's agent Ken Lindner did not immediately respond to a
request for comment. Reuters was unable independently to confirm
the accusation against Lauer.
The news was announced by "Today" co-anchors Savannah Guthrie
and Hoda Kotb at the start of the talk show, a staple of U.S.
morning television for more than six decades that, NBC says,
averages more than 4 million viewers.
"This is a sad morning at Today and at NBC News," Guthrie said,
visibly shaken. "We just learned this moments ago just this
morning. As Iím sure you can imagine we are devastated."
Lack's statement did not say who made the accusation.
"We are deeply saddened by this turn of events," Lack's
statement said. "But we will face it together as a news
organization - and do it in as transparent a manner as we can."
During Wednesday's show, NBC News reporter
Stephanie Gosk said the colleague had accused Lauer of serious
misconduct "throughout 2014." An NBC representative did not
immediately respond to a request for more details.
Fellow NBC News anchor Willie Geist, who hosts the "Today"
show's Sunday program, told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" that he was
stunned, especially given Lauer's prominent role.
"He's the leader over there ... he's in charge," Geist said,
referring to Lauer as a friend and mentor who he said had always
led by example on the show's set.
"Matt Lauer is the most powerful person at NBC News, arguably...
At least the most powerful on-air talent," Geist said.
Shortly after the news was announced, U.S. President Donald
Trump said on Twitter, "Wow, Matt Lauer was just fired from NBC
for 'inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace.'"
"But when will the top executives at NBC & Comcast be fired for
putting out so much Fake News. Check out Andy Lackís past!" he
added, without further explanation.
[to top of second column]
A representative for NBC News did not immediately respond to
questions about Trump's tweet.
During the 2016 presidential campaign, then-Republican candidate
Trump was accused by 13 women who publicly said that in the past he
had physically touched them inappropriately in some way, the
Washington Post reported.
Trump denied the accusations, accused rival
Democrats and the media of a smear campaign, and went on to win the
election. Reuters did not independently confirm the accusations
Since Lauer took over the anchor chair in 1997, "Today" has
dominated morning show ratings.
According to Fortune Magazine, Lauer signed a two-year deal in 2016
that would pay him $20 million per year. He joined "Today" in
January 1994 and has interviewed presidents George Bush and Barack
Obama and broadcast from seven Olympic games.
Comcast Corp, the largest U.S. cable television company, owns
NBCUniversal. Comcast shares were down less than 1 percent on
Wednesday morning in very thin premarket trade.
There were reports journalists at multiple outlets
had been investigating complaints against Lauer.
Elizabeth Wagmeister and Ramin Setoodeh, two Variety reporters, said
they had been reporting a story about sexual harassment allegations
by multiple women against Lauer for months. "NBC was aware that
Variety was working on a bombshell story about sexual harassment
allegations against Matt Lauer," Setoodeh wrote on Twitter.
Spokeswomen for the New York Times, whose earlier reporting on Bill
O'Reilly and Harvey Weinstein helped unleash the recent wave of
allegations against powerful men, did not immediately respond to
questions about a CNN report that the Times had been investigating
misconduct by Lauer.
(Reporting by Gina Cherelus and Jonathan Allen;
Additional reporting by Susan Heavey in Washington; Editing by Alden
Bentley, Howard Goller and Nick Zieminski)
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