The shocking truth behind Matt Lauer's firing

On Nov. 29, 2017, Americans woke up to the shocking news that Matt Lauer, a staple of the Today show for more than 20 years, had suddenly been fired by NBC News after the organization received a "detailed complaint from a colleague about inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace." The story has since unfolded in real time, leaving millions stunned and many more to wonder what exactly went down.

Here's what we know so far.

NBC News moved swiftly

News of Lauer's firing broke via a memo written by NBC News Chairman Andy Lack, which was read at the top of the show by Today co-anchor Savannah Guthrie. In the statement, Lack said the organization "received a detailed complaint from a colleague about inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace by Matt Lauer," on Nov. 27, 2017. "It represented, after serious review, a clear violation of our company's standards. As a result, we've decided to terminate his employment."

CNN's Brian Stelter said Lauer "was informed of the network's decision late Tuesday night, before he went to bed."

It may not have been an isolated incident

Lack noted in his memo that while it was "the first complaint about [Lauer's] behavior in the over twenty years he's been at NBC News," the network was "also presented with reason to believe this may not have been an isolated incident."

"Our highest priority is to create a workplace environment where everyone feels safe and protected, and to ensure that any actions that run counter to our core values are met with consequences, no matter who the offender," the statement said. "We are deeply saddened by this turn of events. But we will face it together as a news organization–and do it in as transparent a manner as we can."

The staff at NBC found out about it in real time

NBC staffers, even those who had anchored Today alongside Lauer for years, found out about his firing mere hours before they went on the air without him.

"We just learned this moments ago, just this morning," a tearful Guthrie revealed after reading Lack's memo (via Twitter). "As I'm sure you can imagine, we are devastated and we are still processing all of this. I will tell you right now: we don't know more than what I just shared with you, but we will be covering this story as reporters, as journalists. I'm sure we'll be learning more details in the hours and days to come, and we promise we will share that with you."

"I'm still trying to process the news," Al Roker confessed live on the air while trying to read the day's weather report (via The New York Times.)

Colleagues were heartbroken by the news

The revelation that Lauer had allegedly committed sexually inappropriate behavior understandably left his former co-horts with mixed emotions.

"We are heartbroken. I'm heartbroken for Matt–he is my dear, dear friend and my partner, and he has been loved by many, many people here," Guthrie said after announcing his termination (via Twitter.) "And I'm heartbroken for the brave colleague who came forward to tell her story, and any other women who have their own stories to tell."

Hoda Kotb–who filled in for Lauer at the last minute–also chimed in, saying, "It's hard to reconcile with what we are hearing with the man who we know, who walks in this building every single day. We were both woken up with the news, kind of pre-dawn, and we're trying to process it and trying to make sense of it–and it'll take some time for that."

He was allegedly being investigated

According to CNN, Lauer's quick firing was likely catalyzed not only by the allegation from the unknown staffer but from rumblings that Lauer was being investigated by The New York Times and Variety. "Lack and other NBC News executives have known for weeks that damaging stories could be coming out soon," CNN's Stelter reported, mentioning tweets from Variety's New York bureau chief, Ramin Setoodeh, that revealed the magazine had been investigating Lauer for months and had identified multiple alleged victims.

The news comes at a major turning point for Hollywood

Lauer is just the latest prominent celebrity to see his career crumble following accusations of sexual misconduct. Indeed, things have kicked into high gear ever since The New York Times reported in October 2017 that Hollywood studio mogul Harvey Weinstein had allegedly sexually harassed multiple women over decades, including Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie, and others.

Since then, a mountain of allegations have emerged about other famous Hollywood faces, including Oscar-winning actor Kevin Spacey and comedian Louis C.K. For many of the accused, the allegations have brought their careers to a screeching halt. In fact, about a week prior to Lauer's firing, CBS News fired journalist Charlie Rose after eight women alleged he "had made crude sexual advances" towards them, according to The New York Times.

Lauer has yet to comment on the allegations or his firing, but don't expect him to be reporting the news again anytime soon.

Even the president has chimed in

One person who has chimed in on the Lauer scandal: none other than avid tweeter and President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, who took it upon himself to once again accuse NBC of "fake news."

"Wow, Matt Lauer was just fired from NBC for 'inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace,'" tweeted Trump, who has himself been accused of sexually harassing multiple women. "But when will the top executives at NBC & Comcast be fired for putting out so much Fake News. Check out Andy Lack's past!"

Trump then took it upon himself to go after his other perceived enemies in the press in a separate tweet: "So now that Matt Lauer is gone when will the Fake News practitioners at NBC be terminating the contract of Phil Griffin? And will they terminate low ratings Joe Scarborough based on the 'unsolved mystery' that took place in Florida years ago? Investigate!"

Rumors of his cheating were rampant for years

Lauer has been married to wife Annette Roque for almost 20 years. However, sources told People his infidelity was an open secret in the industry.

"He regularly cheated on his wife," one source said. "Everyone knew. His wife lives in the Hamptons and he lives in the city, but we never heard he made unwanted moves." A Today show staffer concurred, "Everyone on staff knew he cheated regularly on his wife. That wasn't a secret, but sexual [misconduct] is a shock." 

A former producer told Variety, "There were a lot of consensual relationships, but that's still a problem because of the power he held. 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."

He allegedly targeted women during the Olympics

A source told Page Six that Lauer sexually harassed an NBC intern during the 2014 Sochi Olympics, allegedly sending inappropriate messages of a sexual nature, including a particularly incriminating photo. "There's at least one picture [sent to her by Lauer] which was a major part of the evidence, which is why the firing came so quickly…my understanding was it was so damning that it was unquestionable whether or not he should be fired," the source claimed. 

Variety reported that this was a pattern for Lauer, who allegedly would invite young female staffers to his hotel rooms late at night during Olympic coverage over the years. The magazine also reported that Lauer's wife may have joined him at the London Olympics because she didn't trust him to travel without her.

Did he abuse his power on the set of Today?

Lauer's alleged misconduct reportedly wasn't limited to Olympic cities. According to a two-month investigation by Variety, he allegedly exposed himself to a female staffer in his office and chided her when she wouldn't perform a sex act; he was accused of sending a vulgar gift to another staffer with a note describing how he wanted her to use it; and he played "F**k, Marry, Kill" with his colleagues and underlings. Sources accused him of engaging in sexual banter in the office regularly, making employees uncomfortable.

His office was designed for maximum privacy

Variety reported that Lauer was "paranoid" about tabloid reporters tracking his whereabouts and alleged affairs, so he apparently took matters into his own hands: His office within 30 Rockefeller Center was "in a secluded space," and he had a button under his desk that he could use to lock his office door without having to get up out of his seat. Two women who Lauer allegedly sexually harassed claimed Lauer used these features to ensure that no one could walk in on him if he was up to no good.

Did everyone at NBC fear him?

Lauer had so much clout at NBC that both women and men allegedly feared him.

"Everybody at NBC knew about Matt Lauer's sexually inappropriate behavior—and knew not to talk about it," a former Today staffer told Page Six. "Women did complain about his behavior, and there were a lot of closed-door meetings before it was all brushed under the carpet."

A current staffer alleged, "Matt's sexual conquests were general office fodder. There was constant innuendo in the office about which woman had just had sex with Matt and which one would be next." Another female staffer added, "They feared Matt. The last few years, as well as the many years before, Matt controlled all of the women on the show and had all the men bowing and scraping to him."

Though NBC insiders told Page Six that past complaints were ignored, network leaders have gone on the record to deny those claims. "We can say unequivocally, that, prior to [Nov. 27, 2017,] current NBC News management was never made aware of any complaints about Matt Lauer's conduct," a statement said. 

The Today musical may have dropped hints

In December 2014, a Today show musical ran on the show. Five minutes into the nearly 15-minute segment, an intern spills coffee on Lauer, who then removes and irons his pants. When female staffers walk in, a boxer shorts-clad Lauer tells them to "drink it in, ladies," while the staffers reply, "Again Matt? That's the third time this week!"

Of course, that might have just been an innocent joke at the time, but it now feels like no laughing matter.

He may not have treated his co-anchors respectfully

In 2012, Andy Cohen asked Lauer's former Today co-host Katie Couric what his most annoying habit was during their 15 years working together, and she quipped, "He pinches me on the a** a lot."

In October 2006, when Lauer thought cameras weren't rolling, he told co-anchor Meredith Vieira–who was bending over at the time–"Pretty sweater. Keep bending over like that. It's a nice view." That rather awkward soundbite was obtained by TMZ on Nov. 29, 2017.

Did he threaten to ruin women's careers?

A source told Page Six that Lauer threatened to ruin women's careers if they spoke out against his alleged sexual misconduct. 

"For Matt, some women on the show were just a one-time thing, and he never spoke to them again. Other women he had affairs with. And others he just picked up and disposed of when he felt like it," the insider told Page Six. "The most horrible thing was that he made it clear that if they ever spoke out or crossed him, they would be fired from the show, negative stories leaked about them, and their careers would be destroyed."

Ann Curry spoke out

Ann Curry was a co-anchor of Today from 2011 to 2012, but bid a tearful farewell to the show, reportedly due to tensions with Lauer. When Lauer's allegations made headlines, she did not speak specifically about his firing, but she did tell People: "I'm still processing it." 

Curry also talked about the bigger picture. "The women's movement got us into the workplace, but it didn't make us safe once we got there," she said. "And the battle lines are now clear. We need to move this revolution forward and make our workplaces safe. Corporate America is quite clearly failing to do so, and unless it does something to change that, we need to keep doing more ourselves."

Despite her own rumored issues with Lauer, Curry has maintained a classy composure. An insider told Us Weekly, "She has been very diplomatic when responding to people and isn't relishing in it as people might think she should be. She has been getting so many phone calls that people can't even get through."

Some say his colleagues feigned surprise at his conduct

Some industry insiders claim Lauer's conduct wasn't news to anyone who worked with him.

"Our sources say [Lauer's behavior] wasn't even considered a secret," Variety reporter Ramin Setoodeh told CNN. "It was known by many employees at the Today show, including some employees that have gone on television and said publicly, 'We had no idea.'" 

A source told Page Six, "All the women on-air knew… Al Roker knew… It is insulting to see the pretend shock on the faces of the people at Today after Lauer was fired. This is just theatrics."

"I don't know what everyone is so surprised by," a high-level industry insider told Vanity Fair. "This has been going on for months and months and everybody knew it and it was just going to be which girl came forward, and who reported it first."

He didn't fight his firing

An insider told Page Six that part of why Lauer took his firing so well is because he knew he couldn't refute the allegations. "The girl had a high-power attorney and so everyone knew if NBC didn't make a decision and push it out quick, they would have arranged for a sit-down interview with a competitor [and the messages could be made public]," a source said. "Matt took the news well once he realized he was in a corner. He was very apologetic."

More allegations have surfaced

A former NBC employee, who began working at the network in the late 1990s, told The New York Times that Lauer sexually assaulted her in 2001. The alleged victim claimed Lauer often made inappropriate sexual comments to her, which escalated when he asked her to his office one day. Lauer allegedly told the woman to unbutton her shirt, then proceeded to pull her pants down. The woman claimed she blacked out and that when she woke up, Lauer told his assistant to take her to a nurse. The alleged victim said she didn't report the incident at the time for fear of losing her job, but that she left NBC on her own a year later.

The New York Times also reported claimed that NBC had received "at least two new complaints" about Lauer since his firing, including the one mentioned above.

He had to be edited out of the Christmas tree lighting

If the Rockefeller Christmas Tree lighting special that aired on NBC on Nov. 29, 2017, seemed a bit awkward, there's a reason for that. A source told Page Six that NBC had to edit Lauer out of pre-taped segments of the annual holiday program less than 24 hours before the tree lighting ceremony began.

He spoke out

On Nov. 30, 2017, Lauer released a statement responding to the sexual misconduct allegations that led to his firing.

"There are no words to express my sorrow and regret for the pain I have caused others by words and actions," he said (via Variety). "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. I regret that my shame is now shared by the people I cherish dearly." 

He continued, "Repairing the damage will take a lot of time and soul searching and I'm committed to beginning that effort. It is now my full time job. The last two days have forced me to take a very hard look at my own troubling flaws. It's been humbling. I am blessed to be surrounded by the people I love. I thank them for their patience and grace."

His ex-wife is standing by him

Lauer's ex-wife, television producer Nancy Alspaugh, to whom he was married from 1981 to 1988, isn't turning her back on him despite the allegations.

"I was shocked because he's been such a stalwart at that network and in that job," Alspaugh told Entertainment Tonight. "He's been the best person that's ever held that job and I couldn't imagine that anything that he would have done—that would have been so out of character for him—that would have caused that reaction… I never saw him as a power monger or somebody who would abuse his position in any way."

Alspaugh said she reached out to Lauer but had not heard back. She also claimed that she contacted him previously when a reporter supposedly contacted her to let her know that a bombshell story about her ex was in the works. "When I called him, he thanked me…and he said of course none of it was true," she said. 

"As time goes on here, people should be aware there's a family involved here," Alspaugh said. "There are three children… I think it's important to be aware that this can destroy a family. Reporting on accusations before they know whether they're real or not."

He wants a sweet severance

Lauer, who made $20 million a year hosting Today, still had a year and a half left on his contract when his was fired. His attorneys are reportedly looking to cash in on that time. Lauer is said to be eyeing a $30 million "golden parachute," but due to morality clauses in his contract, that may not end well for him.

A source told Page Six, "There is no way Matt is getting paid. There has been an irrevocable breach of Matt's contract, there is a moral clause that says if he brings the company into disrepute—which he clearly has—NBC can terminate his employment immediately without pay and they do not have to pay out his contract."

Megyn Kelly may be gunning for his job

Now that Lauer is out, sources told Page Six that Megyn Kelly wants his job. 

She's been quick to call him out for his behavior. Kelly told a crowd at the Business Insider Ignition Conference on Nov. 29, 2017 (via Page Six), "Let me tell you, if a woman came to me at NBC News and said this has happened to me… A.) I would advise her on what to do and B.) I would work it behind the scenes, even if I had to go into the boss' office and say, 'Here's a name, go investigate, you have to do some sort of looking. I'm not going to tell you who reported it. I don't have to.'" 

Kelly added, "I think powerful women need to be there for less powerful women so they can grow into powerful women, so they're not scared out of the workforce or effectively shoved out."

Craig Melvin may replace him, but it's anybody's game

No one is sure who's in line to replace Lauer, and some sources claim that's exactly what Lauer wanted during his tenure at NBC. A source told Entertainment Tonight that there have been whispers that MSNBC Live anchor and Saturday Today host Craig Melvin may be in the running, noting that it would be a "clean slate" for the network.

Insiders told Page Six that they aren't exactly sure what the backup plan is, because Lauer deliberately left NBC without a Plan B for his exit, driving away talent like David Gregory, Josh Elliott, and Willie Geist who may have been in the running.

"Matt killed off, in their infancy, every man who could succeed him at the time that he was ready to hang it up — so there's nobody to take his place," a source told Page Six. "And now NBC is paying the price." An insider also told the site, "The bigger picture is, how do you have a $500 million franchise with no heir? There were always women lined up to replace women, but all the men disappear? You have no possible successor? Comcast allowed Matt to destroy anyone who came close to success there. [There is] not one male successor."

He wasn't the only staffer accused of harassment

Lauer may not have been alone in his bad behavior. Insiders told Variety that Lauer's favorite talent booker at Today, Matt Zimmerman, was accused of sexual misconduct, with sources alleging that he pushed senior male employees out of the show's ranks and replaced them with younger women. He is also accused of pursuing relationships with multiple female staffers and of sending inappropriate late night texts. Zimmerman was fired from his position this week.

NBC is having an internal review of how it handled the allegations

After Lauer's firing, Variety reported that NBC and NBC News are launching internal investigations into their handling of sexual harassment claims.

"A team of the most experienced NBCUniversal Legal and Human Resources leaders have begun a thorough and timely review of what happened and what we can do to build a culture of greater transparency, openness and respect for each other," Andrew Lack, chairman of NBC News and MSNBC, said in a memo to staffers (obtained by Variety). "At the conclusion of the review we will share what we've learned, no matter how painful, and act on it … we saw that when an employee comes forward to report misconduct, the system works. The complaint is quickly assessed and meaningful action is taken. But we also learned that we must do a much better job of making people feel empowered to take that crucial first step of reporting bad behavior."

Ratings are up

Despite the drama behind the scenes at Today, ratings are better post-Lauer firing than they've been in a while. Variety reported that in light of the chaos surrounding Lauer's exit, Today was the No. 1 morning news show for the first time in three months, beating rival Good Morning America.

He disappeared from social media

Variety reported that almost immediately after Lauer's firing, NBC wiped their one-time poster boy off almost all of their online media, including NBCNews.com, Today.com, and all of the network's social media channels. What's more, Lauer's own social media presence has also disappeared: Fox News pointed out that Lauer's own Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook accounts had all been quietly deactivated after his termination from Today.

His colleagues roasted him about his conduct

Though many of Lauer's colleagues denied any knowledge of his alleged sexual misconduct, many of them had a good chuckle about it at a private roast of the anchor in 2008. Fox News reported that Morning Joe host Joe Scarborough talked about the roast on air in December 2017, telling the audience, "The whole theme [of the roast] was that he does the show and then he has sex with people, with employees. So was this whispered behind closed doors? No. It was shouted from the mountaintops and everybody laughed about it." 

The Village Voice reported at the time that many of the jokes at the roast revolved around Lauer's Lothario reputation, while a media executive in the audience at the event told Fox News, "This was a comedic roast, but there was clearly a vein of truth running through all those jokes. You had Katie Couric, Meredith Vieira and Jeff Zucker all standing up there joking about his sex in the office, his kinkiness. They all knew."

Some of his colleagues refuse to believe the allegations

Not all of the women with whom Lauer has worked believe this misconduct accusations levied against him. An anonymous, female former Today show colleague told People, "He is weak and broken and ashamed by his own admission … He is human, and he is flawed. But is he going to use his power to be a predator on women? Until I see solid evidence of that, I just can't believe it." The colleague added, "The reason people are so upset and people are crying on our staff, which is like 80 percent women, is because he was really loved and treated people really well, and it's shocking to think that there could be this side."

Another colleague told People, "This is the head of the show, and he was doing good deeds behind the doors. People would say, 'Go to Matt.' He would pay off people's bills. His driver passed, and he paid for all his funeral bills so the family wouldn't have to." The source added that when a crew member's wife had a tumor, "They were trying to get a laptop for her so she could do something during chemo. Matt bought the laptop and told them to keep all the money they raised for medical bills." The source praised Lauer's work ethic, gushing, "He never stopped prepping and following up and working hard as hard as he climbed. He treated the security guard the same as he would treat a CEO."

He may have left NBC soon on his own accord

A source told People that Lauer was contemplating retiring from Today long before he was fired. "I think he'll retire. He should anyway. He had made his money and said all he wanted to do is be with the kids and golf. He wanted to run away and live with the money he had made and be with his family. This is definitely not the way he wanted to go out, but I don't think he feels the need to be on air like some people, doing specials. I think he'll have a quiet life and go golfing a ton."

His marriage is pretty much over

Page Six reported just after Lauer's scandal broke that he and wife Annette Roque had been living apart for years — and that Roque only withdrew her 2006 divorce petition because Lauer offered her $5 million to stay in the marriage and preserve his squeaky-clean public profile. "Matt needed to stay in the marriage to keep his reputation as America's nicest dad," a source said. "He is in fact a great, and very doting dad to his kids, but he is also a terrible husband."

What's more, Roque's father told The Daily Mail, "I have no words for her husband. What he has done is bad. Everybody feels betrayed … She is not going to stay with him and work it out. They are not together trying to work it out."