Hours after Today anchors announced the surprise termination of NBC's Matt Lauer over a sexual harassment claim, explosive reports in Variety and the New York Times detailed several allegations of misconduct against the high-profile anchor.
Earlier on Wednesday, Page Six reported that Lauer was fired after an NBC employee complained to HR about an incident that happened during the 2014 Sochi Olympics. But dozens of current and former NBC staffers expanded on the details of Lauer's alleged behavior to Variety. The accusations range from inappropriate comments made about female coworkers' bodies and sexual history to gifting sex toys to colleagues, exposing himself to a coworker in his office, and even inviting NBC employees up to his hotel room while traveling on assignments.
Lauer allegedly made lewd comments to his coworkers in person and via text, and grilled female producers on who they'd slept with. According to Variety, Lauer would frequently "initiate inappropriate contact" with women in his office at NBC, which he could reportedly lock from the inside using a button under his desk—which is apparently a standard feature for executives at the network.
Another former employee told the Times that Lauer had called her to his office in 2001 requesting that she have sex with him. She told the paper that she did not want to report the incident to the network at the time for fear of losing her job.
The accounts paint Lauer as a man who used his power as the network's top-performing anchor to repeatedly harass women. According to sources who spoke with Variety, his misconduct was somewhat of an open secret: Employees reportedly knew about and discussed his behavior, while executives struggled to make sure he remained on-air.
"They protected the shit out of Matt Lauer," one former NBC reporter told Variety.
Disturbingly, Lauer reported on many powerful men who have been accused of sexual harassment and misconduct following the Bill O'Reilly and Harvey Weinstein allegations. In September, he sat down with O'Reilly and grilled him about accusations against the disgraced FOX News host, asking "how intimidating" it must have been for women to file complaints "against the biggest star at the network they worked at."
Several sources told Variety and the Times they were scared speaking out about Lauer's misconduct might damage their careers. Like O'Reilly, Lauer was a major money-maker for NBC. Before he was fired Wednesday, Lauer was paid $25 million a year to help helm Today, one of the most-watched programs on the network since the mid 90s.
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