Entertainment

Matt Lauer, fired Today Show co-host, apologizes in wake of sexual harassment allegations

Fired Today Show co-host Matt Lauer expresses sorrow and regret after a number of women came forward with allegations that he sexually harassed them. He says repairing the damage he has caused is now his full-time job.

Statement issued day after NBC terminates him says he's 'ashamed' but some allegations 'untrue'

Matt Lauer, former NBC anchor and co-host of The Today Show, has released a public statement following his firing over allegations of sexual misconduct.

Former Today Show host Matt Lauer, fired for sexual misconduct, said Thursday that repairing the damage he has caused is now his full-time job.

A statement containing Lauer's response to his firing was read by his former co-host Savannah Guthrie on the show where he had worked since 1994 before being fired Tuesday night. His downfall was the broadcast's lead story.

"I regret that my shame is now shared by the people I cherish dearly," Lauer said in the statement. "Repairing the damage will take a lot of time and soul searching and I'm committed to beginning that effort. It is now my full-time job."

Lauer was fired after an NBC employee came forward Monday to detail what NBC News chief Andrew Lack described as Lauer's "inappropriate sexual behaviour" that began at the Sochi Olympics in 2014.

Since then, NBC said two other women have come forward with complaints, with one telling the New York Times that Lauer sexually assaulted her in his office in 2001.

An investigation by Variety magazine revealed a pattern of alleged salacious behavior, with three women claiming they had been sexually harassed by Lauer. All made their complaints anonymously.

Lauer said some of what has been said about him is untrue or mischaracterized, "but there is enough truth in these stories to make me feel embarrassed and ashamed." He did not specify which allegations were true or untrue.

"The last two days have forced me to take a very hard look at my own troubling flaws," he said. "It's been humbling."

For the second day in a row, he was replaced by Hoda Kotb on Today, giving the show an all-female lead anchor team.

NBC is faced with the task of suddenly replacing the man who has been the most visible figure in morning television news, the most lucrative part of the network news business. CBS has the same task, since CBS This Morning host Charlie Rose was fired last week for after several women he worked with made sexual misconduct allegations.

Growing list of harassment allegations

The list of prominent men felled by misconduct allegations has seemed to grow by the day, especially since a pattern of sexual assault by Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein was revealed in the fall.

In the media alone, Lauer joins a list that also includes his former NBC News colleague, Mark Halperin, the late Fox News chief Roger Ailes, Fox News prime-time host Bill O'Reilly and National Public Radio newsroom chief Michael Oreskes.

In the wave of accusations sweeping through the media, Hollywood and politics, the stature and wealth that once served as protection have turned into flimsy shields. Lauer's downfall was stunningly swift.

Lauer denies some of the allegations against him, saying, 'Some of what is being said about me is untrue or mischaracterized.' But he said there was enough truth to some that he felt ashamed. (Mario Anzuoni/Reuters)

Lack said it was the first complaint lodged against Lauer in his 20 years at NBC, but "we were also presented with reason to believe this may not have been an isolated incident." After the new reports came forward, NBC emphasized it was the first time that its current news management had heard of the complaints.

Hours after Lauer's firing, the trade publication Variety posted a report on what it said was a two-month investigation that included dozens of interviews with current and former staffers who asked to remain anonymous.

Among other things, Variety reported allegations that Lauer:

  • Once gave a colleague a sex toy with an explicit note about how he wanted to use it on her.
  • Exposed himself to another female co-worker.
  • Would question female producers about their sex lives.
  • Would talk about which co-hosts he would like to sleep with.

Messages to Lauer and his agent were not immediately returned, and NBC would not say whether he denied or admitted to any wrongdoing.

Lauer is married with three children. His statement on Thursday mentioned the damage he had left behind "at NBC and at home."

Played lead role at major events

Lauer's "Where in the world is Matt Lauer?" segments were popular for years, and he regularly played a lead role at the Olympics and other major news events. He had been assigned as one of the hosts for the Christmas tree lighting ceremony from Rockefeller Center that NBC televised on Wednesday night. The event went ahead without Lauer.

For many years, Today was the unquestioned ratings leader, until it was eclipsed by ABC's Good Morning America following the ugly 2012 firing of Lauer's co-host, Ann Curry. The show had stabilized in recent years with Lauer's pairing with Guthrie.

Also, on Wednesday, former Prairie Home Companion host Garrison Keillor was cut loose by Minnesota Public Radio over an allegation of "inappropriate behaviour."

MPR gave no details about his firing, but the 75-year-old said he put his hand on a woman's back to console her and he inadvertently touched her bare skin through an opening in her shirt.

In an email to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Keillor said he apologized to the woman, she told him she forgave him and the two remained friends "right up until her lawyer called."

MPR said it will end distribution of the radio program The Writer's Almanac, Keillor's daily reading of a poem and telling of literary events, and end rebroadcasts of old Prairie Home Companion episodes.

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