After the shocking news that Matt Lauer had been fired by NBC for sexual harassment this morning, Page Six published an exclusive detailing what led to his dismissal.
According to the story, Lauer “sexually assaulted” (as opposed to harassed) the staffer during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
“An NBC insider said Lauer’s alleged victim complained to HR on Monday: “This happened so quickly. She didn’t go to the media, she made a complaint to NBC’s human resources, and her evidence was so compelling that Matt was fired on Tuesday night. The victim says she has evidence that this has also happened to other women, but so far we don’t have evidence of that.”
NBC chief Andy Lack’s statement merely stated Lauer had been fired after a complaint of “inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace” was reviewed and found his behavior to be a “clear violation of our company’s standards.” Sexual assault with evidence “so compelling” that the man was fired in just over 24 hours goes far beyond “inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace.” I’d consider repeatedly pinching a female co-worker’s derriere, as Katie Couric said on-air five years ago, as inappropriate sexual behavior.
If Lauer felt free to openly and repeatedly do that to a woman who is one of the most powerful journalists in the world, what other harassment and unwanted touching has he subjected female colleagues to? NBC News has admitted they have a few clues:
“While it is the first complaint about his behavior in the over twenty years he’s been at NBC News, we were also presented with reason to believe this may not have been an isolated incident.”
To the woman’s credit, she handled it through proper channels, and NBC responded appropriately. Had NBC’s HR department attempted to cover it up, she could have gone to the New York Times, which was already looking into Lauer’s behavior. NBC execs knew the Times was sniffing around, giving them an added incentive to take action against him and claim a PR win.
On Wednesday’s broadcast Lauer’s former co-host, Savannah Guthrie, said:
“But we will be covering this story as reporters, as journalists. I’m sure we will be learning more details in the hours and days to come, and we promise we will share that with you.”
As of now, details of the assault in Sochi are not public, and they do not need to be. It had to have been a traumatic experience for the staffer, and it is not Guthrie’s or any other journalist’s place to make those details public. In addition, since it was a report to human resources, NBC is not legally able to divulge the contents of the report.
Despite whatever selfish motivations might have led NBC to handle the situation in this way, let’s hope other companies use this episode as an example.