Matt Lauer ‘ashamed and embarrassed’ by reports of sexual misconduct
Former NBC host disputes details but says allegations had ‘enough truth’
Former NBC News host Matt Lauer: “To the people I have hurt, I am truly sorry.” Photograph: Peter Foley/EPA
The former US morning show anchor Matt Lauer said reports of his sexual misconduct had “enough truth” in them for him to feel “ashamed and embarrassed”, in his first public statement since NBC fired the star host for inappropriate sexual behaviour.
NBC announced on Wednesday that it had received one complaint about Lauer, anchor of the Today show for 20 years, and hours later new accusations were published in newspapers that had been investigating him.
“To the people I have hurt, I am truly sorry,” Lauer said in a statement, which was read on air by his former co-anchor on Today, Savannah Guthrie. A day earlier, Guthrie had announced that Lauer was fired because of a detailed complaint by a colleague.
“Some of what is being said about me is untrue or mischaracterised, but there is enough truth in these stories to make me feel embarrassed and ashamed,” Lauer said. “I regret that my shame is now shared by the people I cherish dearly.”
Variety magazine on Wednesday published the results of a two-month investigation of Lauer that included accounts by three women accusing him of sexual harassment.
The women asked to be anonymous because they did not want their disclosures to have professional repercussions. Two of the women said Lauer had a button under his desk that allowed him to “lock his door from the inside without getting up”, according to Variety.
Variety reporters spoke with the women’s friends and families, who had told them previously about the harassment, which included claims of exposing himself to one woman and giving another a sex toy. The women and other former and current NBC staff members also described to Variety other uncomfortable incidents involving Lauer and his female colleagues. “For Lauer, work and sex were intertwined,” Variety said.
The New York Times, which had also been pursuing an investigation of Lauer, said on Wednesday that NBC had received two new complaints about him after he was fired. Lauer’s involvement with the woman who made the first complaint began while they were covering the Winter Olympics in 2014, according to the newspaper.
Lauer is the latest powerful media figure to be embroiled in a sexual misconduct scandal as accusations of sexual harassment and assault are made in Hollywood, politics and other industries.
NBC News chairman Andrew Lack said in a statement on Wednesday that the network received its first complaint against Lauer on Monday. “We were also presented with reason to believe this may not have been an isolated incident,” he said.
Lauer said on Thursday his full-time job was now repairing the damage he had caused. “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.”
Every day people gather outside the Today show studio, hoping that family will see them on TV, or simply waiting to catch a glimpse of the show’s hosts. On Thursday morning Lauer was at the forefront of some people’s minds.
“I liked him and trusted him and now that’s all gone,” said Alayne Smith. “I was surprised, but not shocked because so many are coming forward right now. I’m very disappointed. And more is going to come out. More celebrities and politicians.”
Ms Smith and her friend Sandy Siepman were visiting New York City from St Louis, Missouri, to celebrate their 69th and 70th birthdays.
Both women are regular Today show viewers, and had brought gold and white signs marking their age. Ms Siepman said she was pleased that Lauer and others were now being held to account.
“Women have been treated poorly by men that are high up. They felt they could get away with it because of their jobs,” she said. “I guess you have to be afraid for yourself if you’ve done anything in the past.”
Both Ms Smith and Ms Siepman said they would still watch the show – as did Brenda Ray, a 67-year-old from Dallas, Texas. “I feel very sad and disappointed,” she said. “I loved him. I thought he was very trustworthy and a friend – I’ve watched him for 20 years.” – Guardian