Early Wednesday, NBC fired Matt Lauer, who hosted their Today show for 20 years, over a complaint about "inappropriate sexual behavior" at the office. There'd been talk about investigations soon coming to light, and like clockwork, Variety released what they found out about the Lauer we didn't see on television, based on months of investigation into claims of Lauer's actions at the workplace. It's a terrible look at what happens when you give some people too much power.
Variety spoke with dozens of current and former coworkers of Lauer's, and they detail some frightening actions by him. The piece begins with Lauer gifting one woman a sex toy, including instructions on what he'd do to her with it. Other instances found Lauer playing "fuck, marry, kill" with his colleagues, detailing what he'd do with his Today show co-hosts.
Lauer also, reportedly, had a secret button on his desk that would lock the door of his office without his coworkers knowing. While in his office, Lauer would drop his pants, expose himself, and ask for sexual acts.
Variety also details the complaint that got Lauer fired. According to them, a coworker went to HR to report the behavior, which is said to have begun during the 2014 Olympics in Sochi and went on for months after. While this was said to be the first complaint NBC received about Lauer, NBC News Chairman Andy Lack said, "We were also presented with reason to believe that this may not have been an isolated incident."
Like most of these stories, Lauer was able to do this and collect $25 million a year because NBC basically considered him their golden boy, affording him power that made it hard for women he's harassing to be believed by others. It helped that the Today show was consistently the No. 1 show in the ratings.
It good to point out that Matt Lauer's Today show booker, Matt Zimmerman, was fired earlier this month for "inappropriate conduct" with women. Variety says that Zimmerman was Lauer's close friend, and received his high position at NBC because of Lauer.
Lauer's wife, Annette Roque, is said to have accused him of "cruel and inhumane" acts back in 2004, painting Lauer as a controlling man who would exhibit "extreme anger and hostility" at even the smallest things. She filed for divorce, but they ended up reconciling. There's no word on if Roque would be looking to leave Lauer, but it was reported by Variety that she accompanied him to the London Olympics because of her suspicions about his activity on the road.
Katie Couric, who spent 15 years as Lauer's co-anchor on Today, says in a resurfaced clip that Lauer's "most annoying habit" was that he "pinches me on the ass a lot." This was taken from the "Plead the Fifth" segment of Watch What Happens Live!, and doesn't show Couric explaining the comment any further.
TMZ uncovered an off-air, on-camera moment where Lauer complimented a staff member on her sweater before immediately commenting, sounding half-dead inside, “Keep bending over like that, it’s a nice view.”
Today has itself aired unsettling, “jokey” segments about Lauer. First, he played a traumatized victim of sexual harassment in the office:
Then he depantsed backstage and told his coworkers, “Drink it in, ladies.”
Others are looking at this 2012 interview with Anne Hathaway, where he kicked things off by saying he'd "seen a lot of" her lately. His comment was referring to up-skirt photos of Hathaway that had been splashed over the internet. After Hathaway seemingly didn't catch what Lauer was referring to, he pressed on, asking about her "wardrobe malfunction" and what lessons she'd learned. Hathaway kept it a buck in her response, though.
"I’m sorry that we live in a culture that commodifies sexuality of unwilling participants," Hathaway said, "which brings us back to Les Mis, because that’s what the character is. She is someone who is forced to sell sex to benefit her child because she has nothing and there’s no social safety net, so yeah—let’s get back to Les Mis."
It sucks that Lauer's been able to last this long, get this rich, and attain that much power that it took years for him to be properly exposed.