While some may have been shocked by the sudden firing of Matt Lauer from Today for "inappropriate sexual behavior", it's safe to say the multiple women who accused Lauer of sexual harassment in a report recently published by Variety were not surprised.
The magazine has reportedly interviewed dozens of current and former staffers, and talked to three women who identified themselves as victims of sexual harassment by Lauer. The publication reports that their stories have been corroborated by friends or colleagues that they told at the time. The women have asked for now to remain unnamed, fearing professional repercussions.
One woman, a colleague of Lauer's, says he once gave her a sex toy as a present. It included an explicit note about how he wanted to use it on her, which left her mortified.
Another co-worker says he summoned a different female employee to his office, and then dropped his pants, showing her his penis. After the employee declined to do anything, visibly shaken, he reprimanded her for not engaging in a sexual act.
Others say he liked to quiz female producers on who they'd slept with, offering to trade names. He also reportedly would engage in a crass quiz game with men and women in the office: “f---, marry or kill,” in which he would identify the female co-hosts that he’d most like to sleep with.
More than 10 accounts from current and former Today employees told Variety that Lauer was fixated on women's bodies and looks. He was also known for making lewd comments verbally or via text messages. He once made a suggestive reference to a colleague’s performance in bed and compared it to how she was able to complete her job, according to witnesses to the exchange.
“There were a lot of consensual relationships, but that’s still a problem because of the power he held,” a former producer told Variety. “He couldn’t sleep around town with celebrities or on the road with random people, because he’s Matt Lauer and he’s married. So he’d have to do it within his stable, where he exerted power, and he knew people wouldn’t ever complain.”
What's more is that the anonymous woman who filed the complaint on Monday that resulted in Lauer's firing is not the only one who has done so. Several women reportedly told Variety they complained to executives at the network about Lauer’s behavior, which fell on deaf ears given the lucrative advertising surrounding the morning show.
Lauer, who was paranoid about being followed by tabloid reporters, reportedly even had a button under his desk that allowed him to lock his office door from the inside without getting up. His office was also located in a secluded place.
Variety posits that not only did that afford him the assurance of privacy, it also 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.
The report also details accounts of Lauer's sexual harassment on out-of-town work trips, such as while he covered the Olympics. According to multiple accounts, Lauer would invite women employed by NBC late at night to his hotel room while covering the Olympics in various cities over the years. He later told colleagues how his wife had accompanied him to the London Olympics because she didn’t trust him to travel alone.
Producers also told the magazine that Lauer, who had considerable editorial clout, would frequently veto stories about cheating husbands, something that he was "forced" to keep up with in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein and Roger Ailes scandals.
Variety ends its report with a September quote from Lauer while he was interviewing FOX News anchor Bill O’Reilly if he’d ever sent lewd text messages to colleagues.
“Think about those … women and what they did,” Lauer said. “They came forward and filed complaints against the biggest star they at the network they worked at. Think about how intimidating that must have been. Doesn’t that tell you how strongly they felt about you?”
Lauer was fired Tuesday night after an unnamed woman filed a "detailed report" on Monday against Lauer concerning inappropriate sexual behavior in the work place. NBC News chairman Andrew Lack said in a statement that Lauer's behavior could have been part of a pattern.
"While it is the first complaint about his behavior in the over 20 years he’s been at NBC News, we were also presented with reason to believe this may not have been an isolated incident," Lack's statement read.
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