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Matt Lauer firing protects NBC's biggest news moneymaker

A deeper dive into the day's most important stories with The National's Jonathon Gatehouse.

A deeper dive into the day's most important stories

Matt Lauer, host of The Today Show, was fired by NBC Wednesday over allegations of 'inappropriate sexual behaviour.'

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Did things just get real in America?

For the past 23 years, millions of Americans have been waking up in the morning and looking to Matt Lauer to explain the day's events to them. Now, he is the news.

Early this morning, Lauer's Today Show co-hosts announced that he had been summarily fired by NBC News over allegations of "inappropriate sexual behaviour" in the workplace.

Lauer's Today contract, reportedly worth $20 million US a year, was renewed in Nov. 2016 and runs through the end of next year. (Richard Drew/Associated Press)
"While it is the first complaint about his behaviour 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," says a statement released by NBC News Chairman Andy Lack.

Lauer, of course, isn't the first prominent figure to be caught up in the ever-advancing scandal over sexual assaults, abuse and predatory behaviour by powerful men. But he is arguably the biggest name so far.

The 59-year-old is a household presence in the United States, having anchored coverage of news events like the 9/11 attacks. It seems like his other high-profile role — hosting NBC's live Olympic broadcasts — was the source of his downfall, with several reports pointing to an incident at the Sochi 2014 Winter Games.

Although it's not yet clear when NBC first became aware of the allegations, it seems that multiple media outlets have been investigating the long-married Lauer's past behaviour, including the New York Times and Variety. His Today contract, reportedly worth $20 million US a year, was renewed in Nov. 2016, and runs through the end of next year.

Lauer, seen here in October with journalist Megyn Kelly, has not responded publicly to NBC's statement about his firing. (Nathan Congleton/NBC/Getty Images)
It's tempting to see this as a watershed moment. But Lauer isn't even the first morning show host to fall.

Charlie Rose, his 75-year-old compatriot at CBS This Morning, was fired just over a week ago after more than a dozen women came forward to accuse him of lewd behaviour and inappropriate advances. And Lauer's one time co-host, Billy Bush, lost his Today Show spot in October 2016 after a tape surfaced of him and now President Donald Trump engaging in crude sexual banter.

Still, the Today Show is a big deal for NBC. It's No. 2 in overall morning viewers, and the runaway leader among the key age 22-to-54 advertising demographic. And consequently, it makes a lot of money for the network: $497 million US a year, according to this 2015 estimate, and three times as much as the NBC Nightly News.

With women making up more than 60 per cent of U.S. morning show audiences, forgiveness may never have been an option.

Lauer's abrupt departure may or may not change the way middle America views the sexual assault scandal. But one accused abuser thinks he can harness it to his advantage:

A dramatic curtain

Slobodan Praljak was not the mastermind of the attempted genocide against Bosnia's Muslims. In fact, the former General's May 2013 conviction by the International Criminal Court in The Hague for war crimes received little international notice.

Until this morning.

Praljak was part of a group of six Croat politicians and military leaders found guilty of "prosecuting, expelling and murdering" Muslims in the 1992-95 civil war. "These were not the acts of a few unruly soldiers," said the court's 2,629-page judgment.

Slobodan Praljak yelled, "I am not a war criminal!" and appeared to drink from a small bottle Wednesday, seconds after judges in The Hague reconfirmed his 20-year prison sentence. (ICTY via Associated Press)
The general's crimes mostly centred around the siege of Mostar, where Croat forces relentlessly bombed, shelled and shot at the civilian population, destroying historic buildings, bridges and mosques. He was sentenced to 30 years.

Today, during a televised appeal hearing, he chose to make a dramatic exit — declaring "I am not a war criminal," and then gulping from a small, brown bottle containing poison.

The presiding judge ordered the curtains to be drawn around the prisoner's box and the courtroom cleared. The 72-year-old died a short time later in hospital.

The tribunal finished its decades-long Bosnia prosecutions last week, with the conviction of Serb forces commander Ratko Mladic, the Butcher of Srebrenica.

Today's appeal hearing was to be one of the tribunal's final acts.

Three questions on North Korea

A woman walks past a street monitor in Tokyo showing North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un in a news report about North Korea's Tuesday missile launch. (Toru Hanai/Reuters)
Robert Huish is an associate professor at Dalhousie University, researching security issues around North Korea. While the world is looking at the skies over the hermit kingdom following the latest missile test, Huish has been watching the waters.

Yesterday, he answered three questions from CBC's Anand Ram:

Q: What is North Korea doing in the waters — and why?

A: In the last couple of years, North Korea was able to get access to most of its [weapons] proliferation and fuel sources via marine vessels. The sea is a far better place for North Korea to get access to these materials. It's murkier.

When it comes to maritime vessels, there are so many of them in the waters of the North China Sea that they're difficult to track. They also operate under different flags of convenience — a fake flag that is not relevant to the owners of the ship — fake insurance companies, and also fake managers and owners.

So by accessing routes in the sea, North Korea can rely on a very dark, mysterious network of international capital.

Q: What happens when the ships get close to North Korea?

A: Every major container ship has an automatic identification system that is registered through the International Maritime Organization. This is data that projects the location, the vector, the direction which they are going, how deep the water is below the ship.

But when these vessels come into North Korean waters they quit broadcasting. So they're trying to be deceptive, and they also broadcast often false destination ports.

Q: How can you stop North Korea from getting away with this?

A: We've got two choices. One, we continue to invest resources in trying to knock missiles out of the sky -- after they're in the sky. That is costly. That is high risk. And I'm not sure we entirely understand the correct strategy to do that.

The second way is to figure out where the resources are coming from into North Korea before the missiles take off. To have any sort of aggressive weapons program that involves nuclear material or intercontinental ballistic missiles, you require fuel. You require resources. You require parts. You require computer programs. So if we're able to figure out how the trade and trafficking networks are entering North Korea, this will be a big piece. And now there are so few boats actually entering North Korean waters … the list of suspects just got a lot smaller.

Closing time

Boozy Britain is no more.

Since the beginning of the 1970s, the number of pubs in the United Kingdom has fallen from 75,000 to just under 47,000 with an average of 21 watering holes now permanently closing their doors each week.

The capital, London, has been particularly hard hit. It has lost a quarter of its pubs since 2001, with more than 80 disappearing each year.

A barman passes a drink to a customer at The Bow Bells pub in east London. The city has seen a quarter of its pubs close since 2001. (Eddie Keogh/Reuters)
So earlier this week, London mayor Sadiq Khan unveiled a plan to help keep the pints flowing.

Part of his overall strategy to improve life in the U.K.'s largest city, the plan calls on local councils to take the "heritage, economic, social and cultural value" of drinking establishments into account when weighing redevelopment applications. Builders will also be required to "adequately soundproof" new residential buildings near existing pubs, to reduce noise complaints and neighbourhood tensions.

The U.K. parliament also weighed in on the problem last spring, passing a planning bill that makes it harder to buy up land and convert locals into condos.

But the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), a British advocacy group, says gentrification is only one of the problems facing publicans. It cites high business and beer taxes, as well more people choosing to drink on the couch at home.

The underlying numbers suggest that the closing trend might be hard to halt.

  • While the U.K. ranks No. 8 in the world in terms of overall volume of beer consumed, its 66 million inhabitants are 27th in per capita pints quaffed.
  • One in five Britons don't drink at all — including Khan, London's first Muslim mayor.
  • Back in 2005, 16.8 per cent of the populace reported that they drank "five or more days" a week, according to the U.K. Office of National Statistics.
  • In 2016, it was just 9.6 per cent.

The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, says pubs are inseparable from British and London culture. (REUTERS)
Khan argues that pubs are inseparable from British and London culture. Five tube stations took their names from nearby bars. More than half of tourists who come to the capital make a point of visiting pubs, like the historic Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese on Fleet Street, where Charles Dickens used to drink.

The mayor faces an uphill battle. But this other aspect of his London plan suggests he's thinking ahead.

Quote of the moment

"I could not talk about it; he was like a god."

- Thérèse Lalo, one of two Innu women who shocked a national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls hearing in Quebec today, with assault allegations against a Belgian missionary.

Women play drums at Monday's opening ceremony for the national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls (MMIWG) in Mani-Utenam, Que. (Julia Page/CBC)

What the National is reading

  • Alberta Judge Sheilah Martin appointed to Supreme Court of Canada. (CBC)
  • Saudi Prince pays $1 billion US corruption settlement, is released from detention. (Guardian)
  • Japanese sumo star retires after assaulting smartphone-watching colleague. (BBC)
  • Alleged Benghazi attack ringleader guilty of terrorism, but not the deaths of four Americans. (Washington Post)
  • Berlin police raid restaurant over radioactive playing cards. (BBC)
  • Machine turns water into wine. (Fox News)

Today in history

Nov. 29, 1967: Hippie life: It ain't easy

"I eat things like brown rice that costs 29 cents a pound," says a young man living in Kitsilano flophouse that is now worth $1.5 million.

Hippie life: It ain't easy

4 years ago
Duration 6:43
Featured VideoA hippie in Kitsilano talks about getting by, meditating, doing drugs and dropping out.


Jonathon Gatehouse

CBC Investigative Journalist

Jonathon Gatehouse has covered news and politics at home and abroad, reporting from dozens of countries. He has also written extensively about sports, covering seven Olympic Games and authoring a best-selling book on the business of pro-hockey. He works for the national investigative unit in Toronto.