The executives at NBC have worked hard to distance themselves from Matt Lauer's sexual harassment allegations, claiming that they knew nothing about his behavior before the anonymous report was filed on Monday, Nov. 27. Yet as information about Lauer's years of alleged sexual misconduct continues to come out, it's becoming harder and harder to understand how anyone at NBC could be ignorant to the anchor's actions.
One big piece of retroactive evidence of Lauer's ongoing behavior is an account of his Friar's Club Roast back in 2008. The private event was full of powerful people in the world of news and entertainment, including many executives at NBC. The night consisted largely of jokes about Lauer's promiscuity -- especially in the office.
Jeff Zucker, who was Chairman of NBC Universal at the time, spoke at the roast, freely joking about Lauer's sexual reputation. He began with a comment about Lauer's marital trouble at the time, which was kept relatively secret, and tied it into a racial joke about former Today show host Bryant Gumbel.
"Matt was having some trouble at home with the wife," Zucker recalled onstage. “There was the time Matt stayed for a while at Bryant’s house. That must have been exciting. Two white guys talking golf.”
Zucker went on to joke about Lauer exchanging sexual favors to get ahead at work. “It’s just good to see Matt up here and not under my desk,” he said. Finally, he closed with this: “I don’t want to say Matt is a germophobe, but he’s the only guy I know who uses Purell both before and after he masturbates.”
Since the roast, Zucker has left NBC and gone on to become CNN Worldwide President.
The roast was a private event, where recording of any kind was prohibited. The account that exists is a 2008 article by The Village Voice. In hindsight, the impression given by all the secrecy around the roast is that executives and influential people in the media didn't want the public to be aware of the side of Lauer they would be joking about. On air, Lauer always maintained a relatively reserved, harmless demeanor. Reviewing the roast now shows that, at the very least, his co-workers knew there was more to him than that.