NBC News has claimed that it never received a complaint about former Today show host Matt Lauer until a few days before Lauer was fired. Thursday, Lauer’s former co-host Ann Curry contradicted that claim when she told the Washington Post she had warned two NBC News executives about Lauer’s behavior back in 2012:
During her last year on the “Today” show, in 2012, Lauer’s co-host Ann Curry said she approached two members of NBC’s management team after an NBC female staffer told her she was “sexually harassed physically” by Lauer. “A woman approached me and asked me tearfully if I could help her,” Curry recalled recently, in her first public comments about the episode. “She was afraid of losing her job. . . . I believed her.”
The woman, she said, implored Curry not to reveal her name to anyone, and she obliged. But Curry specifically named Lauer as a person of concern. “I told management they had a problem and they needed to keep an eye on him and how he deals with women,” she said.
The NBC staffer confirmed to The Washington Post that she went to Curry with her complaint. She spoke on the condition of anonymity because she fears retaliation.
Curry declined to name the management officials she says she approached. An NBC spokesman said the company has no record of her warning and added that there was no mention of it in Lauer’s personnel file.
A couple of points about this. First, the fact that the Post confirmed with the staffer who went to Curry for help convinces me this story is probably true. The alternative is that this is some kind of conspiracy to trash NBC by someone who may still work there (it’s a bit hard to tell from this report).
Point two, notice there’s no direct denial by NBC. They say they have no record of this which really proves nothing. NBC had literally millions of reasons not to put any of this in writing in a way that could impact their top star. Granted, it was a risk that they could be sued but, generally speaking, it’s not too surprising that executives would try to protect the reputation of their key talent.
Point three, there’s evidence Lauer was harassing/propositioning women during his tenure. The Post interviewed 35 “current and former” NBC staffers. Of those, 12 said they had experienced sexual harassment at the network but never reported it. And of those 12, three women say they were harassed by Lauer.
Three of the 12 told The Post about sexual advances from Lauer. One woman said that the anchor exposed himself in his office and asked her to touch him, and a second said he had sex with her in the middle of the day in his office — alleged incidents that have not been previously reported. A third woman told The Post that Lauer gave her a sex toy, as first reported by Variety at the time he was fired.
In response to these new allegations from Curry, Lauer made his first public statement since he was fired:
In a statement to The Post Wednesday, Lauer said, “I have made no public comments on the many false stories from anonymous or biased sources that have been reported about me over these past several months . . . I remained silent in an attempt to protect my family from further embarrassment and to restore a small degree of the privacy they have lost. But defending my family now requires me to speak up.
“I fully acknowledge that I acted inappropriately as a husband, father and principal at NBC. However I want to make it perfectly clear that any allegations or reports of coercive, aggressive or abusive actions on my part, at any time, are absolutely false.”
Frankly, I never believed the claim that no one at NBC knew what Lauer was up to because of this video of Lauer being a creep toward his co-host Meredith Viera:
Viera left the show in 2011 and Curry took over until she left in 2015. So Lauer was acting like this in front of the crew, with cameras rolling, well before the incident in 2012 Curry is talking about. This alone is the kind of thing that would get any normal employee disciplined and possibly fired. So, I’m not buying Lauer’s denial that he never offered any woman attention she didn’t accept or invite. I’m also not buying that NBC was never told and didn’t know what he was up to in his office (the one with the door locking button under his desk). NBC’s weak denial is less than convincing.