The sketchy double life of Matt Lauer

After rising to the top of the Today show in the '90s, Matt Lauer quickly became one of the most successful and enduring faces in morning news. But despite being part of the NBC family for more than 20 years, in November 2017, Lauer's legacy was upended when he was suddenly fired from the network over sexual misconduct allegations. In 2019, even more troubling accusations arose, prompting Lauer to respond in a way that cast his previous good character into even sharper relief. 

But even before the scandal that destroyed his career, Lauer was consistently painted by the press as greedy, villainous, and selfish — the exact opposite of that friendly face everyone fell in love with all those years ago. So, what happened to this once powerful journalist, who greeted so many millions of viewers during their morning coffee every day? Or was there always a sketchy dark side to Matt Lauer? Let's take a closer look. 

Matt Lauer was terminated from Today for alleged sexual misconduct

After reporting on a recent wave of powerful men brought down by sexual harassment allegations, the longtime Today show anchor found himself among them when he was unceremoniously fired ahead of the show's Nov. 29, 2017 broadcast. The news of Matt Lauer's termination came via a memo from NBC News Chairman Andrew Lack, which stated, in part, that NBC "received a detailed complaint from a colleague about inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace by Matt Lauer." The memo said that while there have been no other complaints about Lauer's behavior throughout his 20 years of employment with NBC, they have reason to believe this may not have been an isolated incident.

At the top of Today's broadcast, Savannah Guthrie announced the termination. She said everyone else at the program had just became aware of the firing prior to going on the air and that she was "heartbroken for the brave colleague that came forward to tell her story." The full details of the initial accusation didn't come out until nearly two years later.

In an excerpt from Ronan Farrow's 2019 book Catch & Kill (via CNN), Brooke Nevils claimed that her life was "derailed" after she suffered emotional and physical trauma from a sexual encounter with Lauer in Sochi, Russia in 2014. Nevils eventually received a "seven-figure settlement." In wake of Lauer's firing, Variety and the New York Times also published allegations from multiple women of sexual misconduct by Lauer.

Matt Lauer finally spoke out about the allegations

Two years after the allegations were levied against him, Matt Lauer spoke out in a lengthy statement to Variety where he denied all claims of inappropriate sexual behavior. Most poignantly, Lauer shut down the rumors of his now-infamous lock button and painted his alleged assault of Brooke Nevils as a long-running, consensual extramarital affair that went sour after he decided to return to his normal life and "pretend as if nothing had happened."

Lauer claimed the affair began on that night Sochi, Russia, but the pair continued seeing each other once they returned home to New York. He admitted that he eventually ended their relationship "poorly" by ceasing all communication, but claimed Nevils attempted to rekindle their romance by calling him "late at night while [he] was home with [his] family." He then accused the former NBC employee of making false accusations to help sell a book.

Lauer concluded his lengthy denial letter with a seemingly veiled message: "For two years, the women with whom I had extramarital relationships have abandoned shared responsibility, and instead, shielded themselves from blame behind false allegations. They have avoided having to look a boyfriend, husband, or a child in the eye and say, 'I cheated.' They have done enormous damage in the process. And I will no longer provide them the shelter of my silence."

Did Matt Lauer have a lock button in his office?

In addition to the horrific details of alleged sexual harassment in Variety's expose, many took note of the creepy depiction of Matt Lauer's office at 30 Rock, particularly the "button under his desk that allowed him to lock his door from the inside without getting up." 

"This afforded him the assurance of privacy," Variety wrote. "It allowed him to welcome female employees and initiate inappropriate contact while knowing nobody could walk in on him, according to two women who were sexually harassed by Lauer."

Sources for People later claimed that the button was an "idiosyncratic thing" that was standard in "many exec offices in 30 Rock," but Lauer told Variety in a lengthy statement that no such button ever existed. "Despite numerous erroneous reports in the past, there was not a button in my office that could lock the door from the inside. There was no such locking mechanism. It didn't exist. NBC confirmed this fact publicly following my termination. It would have been impossible to confine anyone in my office, for any purpose, and I have never attempted to make anyone feel as if they were confined in my office."

Matt Lauer's relationship with his co-anchors wasn't always professional

Though he has often received high praise from his colleagues over the years, Matt Lauer's behavior around the likes of former co-anchors Katie Couric and Meredith Vieira wasn't always, you know, great. 

After allegations of sexual harassment by Lauer were made public, TMZ uncovered one particular unsettling video of Lauer making inappropriate comments to Vieira during a commercial break for Today in 2006. "Pretty sweater. Keep bending over like that. It's a nice view," Lauer is heard saying to Vieira as he prepared for the show's next segment.

Meanwhile, TMZ also resurfaced a 2012 interview Couric gave to Watch What Happens Live's Andy Cohen, during which she quipped that Lauer often pinched her behind on the set of Today.

Granted, Couric brushed off her confession with a laugh, while Vieira's husband told TMZ that his wife wasn't actually offended by Lauer's comment. Nonetheless, Ronan Farrow reported in his book Catch and Kill (via Variety) that Vieira was the one who encouraged Nevils to formally report Lauer. The former Today host later appeared on Andy Cohen's SiriusXM show Radio Andy where she admitted she was "shocked like everybody else" about Lauer's allegations.

Did Matt Lauer's behavior jeopardize Ann Curry's career?

Matt Lauer's reputation with NBC has taken hits before. In New York magazine's in-depth feature on Ann Curry's messy 2012 exit from the Today show, author Joe Hagan speculates that Lauer's attitude and lack of on-air chemistry with Curry may have been a major contributing factor to her uncomfortable and very public downfall. "Lauer looked awkward and unhappy next to her [on air]—a situation that Lauer himself had also diagnosed," Hagan wrote. "He openly complained about her to NBC staffers and to [executive producer Jim] Bell."

Things reportedly got so bad that Lauer allegedly began "getting into fights with producers and tearing the show up in the early-morning hours," Hagan said. "He made it clear to friends that he was miserable with Curry and uncomfortable with his corporate masters at Comcast. He spoke often of downsizing his work life, playing more golf, spending more time with his kids in the Hamptons." 

Curry's experience was much different than the one described by Hagan. In a 2018 interview with CBS This Morning, the anchor claimed NBC had a "climate of verbal harassment," that "verbal sexual harassment was pervasive," and that she was "not surprised" about Lauer's allegations. As for whether or not Lauer got her fired, she admitted, "I'm not the one to ask about that. ... I don't know what was all behind it. I do know it hurt like hell."

Was Matt Lauer even invested in Today?

Although Matt Lauer became more involved with the morning news show, around the same time, he was allegedly also flirting with the idea of leaving NBC and Today altogether—a double life within a double life, if you will. Part of the reason reportedly stemmed from a leaked report alleging that American Idol's Ryan Seacrest was gunning for Lauer's job. "So possibly as a negotiating tactic," Lauer "[had] begun working closely with [Jeff] Zucker to develop an idea for ABC: the Katie Couric daytime talk show with Matt Lauer—together again," Hagan wrote in his New York magazine piece. "Lauer met with Bob Iger, the CEO of Disney, ABC's parent company, who made a strong effort to recruit Lauer."

"There were issues of both timing and money, but the larger corporate strategy was clear: If ABC could poach Lauer, then Today, NBC's cash cow, would fall from its perch, Good Morning America would be ascendant, and the entire NBC network would crumple like a house of cards," Hagan said. "The ABC deal, in its final form, would feature Lauer in a dual role: co-host of the daytime program with Couric and also as an ABC News personality." Man, that's like a plot line straight out of, well, House of Cards.

Matt Lauer could have saved Ann Curry (but he didn't)

Lauer wound up staying with NBC, and according to New York magazine, he signed a two-year deal that would earn him a record-breaking $25 million per year. The Today show would essentially be "rebuilt" around him. Talk about power. Lauer used ABC's offer as "a negotiating tactic," reported People, and Seacrest joined Today in a different capacity that didn't threaten Lauer.

As for Curry, New York magazine notes that Lauer's contract reboot did not directly lead to her ousting. Curry's name was reportedly not brought up during Lauer's negotiations, and he had supposedly been told in advance that she would be off the show whether he stayed or not, for reasons stretching well beyond their icy relationship, including a steep decline in the morning ratings. Still, the magazine piece alleges Lauer had more than enough leverage to save Curry, particularly given his newfound power—he just didn't use it. "To the contrary, in signing a new contract to remain at the show for at least two more years, he tacitly ratified the plan to remove her," Hagan wrote. "Which doesn't make him a horrible person—it makes him, for better or worse, a pro." Sure, but ugh. Ouch.

NBC agreed to pay for Matt Lauer's helicopter shuttle

Although his name got dragged through the mud after Ann Curry's departure, Matt Lauer weathered the storm — at least long enough to renew his contract for another two years in 2014. By that point, you'd think he would have developed a bit of humility, but no. According to Page Six, NBC News execs were desperate to keep Lauer happy. "They believe Today has turned a corner and he is the key to its continuing success," sources told the paper. How did they allegedly keep a smile on his face? Try this on for size: "They agreed to pay for his helicopter flights to the Hamptons and back, so he can spend more time with his family," a source said.

A spokesperson for the show didn't outright deny the report. "On rare occasions, Matt will fly home, but most of the time you'll find him stuck in traffic on the Long Island Expressway with everyone else," the rep told Page Six. How relatable.

Did Matt Lauer scoop Billy Bush's breaking story?

Although freshly minted Today show member Billy Bush was the first to get the scoop on Ryan Lochte's alleged robbery during the Rio Olympics in August 2016, NBC quickly turned to Matt Lauer to cover everything that happened next. How did that come about?

Some Page Six sources allege that "anchor animal" Lauer dove in and scooped up the story for himself. "Matt has a history of demanding interviews, and it's Billy's first big story as anchor," a source said. "It was his story. NBC snubbed Billy and let Matt do it. Billy got burned." A second insider added, "This is Matt's story now. Billy got it, but was pushed out." A third source claimed Lochte specifically requested to speak to Lauer because the veteran newsman had interviewed the swimmer multiple times in the past.

Well, if it's any consolation, Bush, the whole thing turned out to be a big, fat lie.

Why did Matt Lauer's wife file for divorce?

Matt Lauer has been married to Annette Roque since 1998, and with three children, he's by all means a doting family man. Still, his seemingly perfect personal life reportedly almost fell apart in 2008 when Roque quietly filed for divorce. The split was called off about a month later, but no one knew about the trouble until 2014, when Radar Online got its hands on Roque's divorce papers.

In the documents, Roque reportedly alleged that Lauer endangered her "physical and mental well-being ... so as to render it unsafe and improper" for her to live with him. She also claimed he "continuously and repeatedly [gave] higher priority to ... personal interests than to his family obligations to [her], causing [her] to feel abandoned, isolated and alone in raising the parties' children." If that wasn't enough damning, Roque also alleged Lauer was "extremely controlling," to the point where she was unable to make "even the smallest decisions without his approval, including, but not limited to, decisions regarding finances, travel plans, decorating the parties' homes and domestic help issues."

According to People, Lauer and Roque formally separated following his termination by NBC. Their divorce was finalized in 2019, just before Lauer publicly admitted to having extra marital affairs.

Matt Lauer allegedly cheated on his wife for years

In the wake of Matt Lauer's sexual misconduct scandal, People published a report alleging that he "regularly cheated on his wife" — and that it was an open secret. "Everyone knew," one source said. "His wife lives in the Hamptons and he lives in the city, but we never heard he made unwanted moves." Added a second source, "Everyone on staff knew he cheated regularly on his wife."

A third source claimed that "there was most definitely more than one" affair, claiming that "they were never with anyone whom [Lauer] didn't have significant seniority over." And yet, the source also claimed that Lauer "wasn't a lech and he wasn't known as someone who would corner you or retaliate against you if you spurned him or someone who would lure you into his dressing room."

As it turns out, People's report had at least one aspect correct. In 2019, Lauer finally owned up to his affairs as part of a lengthy statement to Variety, where he denied the allegations leveled against him. "Because of my infidelity, I have brought more pain and embarrassment to my family than most people can ever begin to understand," he wrote. "They've been through Hell. I have asked for their forgiveness, taken responsibility for what I did do wrong, and accepted the consequences."

Was Matt Lauer having an affair with Natalie Morales?

Matt Lauer's personal life was called into question again in 2016 when Page Six alleged that Natalie Morales was leaving Today for Access Hollywood because she and Lauer were having an affair. "There's speculation it's one of the reasons why she's moving...," a source said. "Matt didn't want to work with her," adding, "There's an awkwardness between Matt and Natalie...He protected her for a long time and now it seems like something has gone awry."

Both Lauer and Morales denied the gossip. Lauer told The Mike Lupica Podcast that he addressed the allegations in order to protect his family. "When you feel your family is being threatened and hurt, you speak up," he said. "And then you put your head down and go back about your business."

A year prior, Lauer also shot down rumors that he had an affair with celebrity chef Giada De Laurentiis.

Flying with Matt Lauer sounds fun

Sitting next to Matt Lauer on a plane might sound like a dream come true for some — so long as you don't annoy him with details about the funeral you just attended. According to Page Six, Lauer was traveling on a red-eye flight when a "mournful stranger in first class started telling him about an all-day funeral." Lauer reportedly got so annoyed, he requested a seat change during the flight. "Lauer asked a flight attendant, 'Is this a full flight?' He just wanted to get away from this weird guy and find a seat where he could sleep," a passenger said.

Lauer supposedly wanted to move over to a section with two empty seats but was forced to sit next to Natalie Morales because the flight attendant had just upgraded two other passengers. "He sat down next to Natalie, put a blanket over his head and slept the whole way," the source said. It seems the anchor's on-air and in-the-air personalities may be miles apart.

Matt Lauer allegedly 'blew a gasket' when Megyn Kelly was hired

Though you won't hear him complaining on air, word on the street was Matt Lauer wasn't happy about adding former Fox News star Megyn Kelly to the NBC news team. According to Page Six, the "notoriously territorial" Lauer was informed about Kelly's hiring on the morning the news broke. He allegedly did not appreciate being left in the dark and "blew a gasket," according to a source for the tab.

Megyn Kelly might have outlived Lauer on the network, but she was eventually let go. According to Rolling Stone, Megyn Kelly Today was canceled following the host's "controversial comments about blackface and Halloween costumes." But others believe the real reason for her show's cancellation was her coverage of the allegations against Lauer earlier in that fall, like her interview with former Today production assistant Addie Zinone, who categorized her alleged sexual relationship with Lauer as "an abuse of power." 

When asked about the segment by Us Weekly, Kelly told the outlet that she knows "too much that others don't know" about Lauer's situation, and refused to comment on whether or not NBC pushed back on her for her reporting.