On Wednesday morning, news emerged that longtime Today show host Matt Lauer had been fired from NBC for sexual impropriety. The news came as a shock to Lauer's colleagues, who were only informed about the decision mere moments before they went on air. NBC News Chairman Andy Lack put out a statement citing this as the first complaint about Lauer's behavior in over 20 years.
At the same time, however, he acknowledged it was probably not the last: “We were also presented with reason to believe that this may not have been an isolated incident,” Lack said.
How he and the rest of the NBC brass could not have seen it coming is a bit of a mystery.
Matt Lauer has had years and years of documented bad behavior.orchestrated Ann Curry's dismissal from NBC, and childishly called the plan "Operation Bambi," because getting rid of Curry would be like "killing Bambi."
There's also the matter of the way he treated Hillary Clinton during the 2016 elections.wrote in her memoir What Happened, “Lauer had turned what should have been a serious discussion into a pointless ambush. What a waste of time."
There was also the matter of the way he treated his female co-stars, and even female celebs like Anne Hathaway – to whom he famously quipped, after she'd suffered a wardrobe malfunction – “Good morning. Nice to see you. Seen a lot of you lately."If this wink wink nudge nudge barely-hidden misogyny was part and parcel of Lauer's style, there was another part of him that was much worse. He was, according to several NBC employees who spoke to Variety as part of a months-long investigation, an avowed serial predator. Or, in the words of one unnamed producer, "He was just really cruel."
Lauer had a pattern of harassment which was known at NBC and assiduously hidden by his handlers.
Matt Lauer gave his female colleague a sex toy as a present and then proceeded to tell her how he wanted to use it… https://t.co/txxnbpbgWL— Noxeema Jackson (@Noxeema Jackson)1511988116.0
If these incidents – which are relatively minor considered to the other things he did – seem outrageous, they weren't regarded as such at NBC.Brian Stelter of the New York Times described:
[Ann] Curry felt that the boys’ club atmosphere behind the scenes at “Today" undermined her from the start, and she told friends that her final months were a form of professional torture. The growing indifference of Matt Lauer, her co-host, had hurt the most, but there was also just a general meanness on set. At one point, the executive producer, Jim Bell, commissioned a blooper reel of Curry’s worst on-air mistakes. Another time, according to a producer, Bell called staff members into his office to show a gaffe she made during a cross-talk with a local station.All this happened before 2012, when Curry was unceremoniously fired from NBC (but the company wasn't aware of Lauer's malfeasance, right?). Even worse, the company put in place the structures that helped Lauer get away with his predations. Like the button behind his desk, for one...
As Variety describes, "His office 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."
JUST IN: Matt Lauer had a secret button under his desk tht he used to lock his office door to trap women inside his… https://t.co/Y7YbnNTooe— USA NEWS (@USA NEWS)1511993724.0
"There were a lot of consensual relationships, but that’s still a problem because of the power he held," says a former producer who knew first-hand of these encounters. "He couldn’t sleep around town with celebrities or on the road with random people, because he’s Matt Lauer and he’s married. So he’d have to do it within his stable, where he exerted power, and he knew people wouldn’t ever complain."Again, these are the consensual incidents. There were, of course, the ones where he just locked women in his office and harassed them.
Lauer also liked to harass women on the road.
The question then becomes how could they not have known when Lauer demonstrated such a pattern of misogyny and harassment?
It makes you wonder https://t.co/9D2SywzQBp— New York Post (@New York Post)1511993687.0
And yet, NBC brass didn't do anything. In fact, they actively covered for him.
Revisit the savage behind-the-scenes maneuverings that led NBC to fire Ann Curry in 2012 as part of a plan to keep… https://t.co/MGCw3Ot1cO— New York Magazine (@New York Magazine)1511972822.0
But keeping Lauer happy came at the expense of everyone else.
In September, Lauer asked Fox News star anchor Bill O’Reilly if he’d ever sent lewd text messages to colleagues. “Think about those … women and what they did," Lauer said. “They came forward and filed complaints against the biggest star at the network they worked at. Think about how intimidating that must have been. Doesn’t that tell you how strongly they felt about you?"Exactly.