Lauer statement: Allegations have "enough truth" for some "soul searching"

After his stunning termination yesterday, Matt Lauer remained silent for 24 hours as Variety and the New York Times ran the stories of his alleged sexual predation they had been preparing for weeks. Lauer finally responded this morning with a general apology married to a non-specific partial denial, read on air by Lauer’s former co-hosts at NBC’s Today show. Lauer writes that some of the allegations are untrue and/or “mischaracterized,” but that there’s “enough truth” to warrant some “soul searching.”

Call it a half-Franken with a twist:

Matt Lauer apologized and said he was “soul searching” in a statement read out on NBC’s “Today” show on Tuesday, a day after he was fired from his role as co-host of the popular morning show for what the network said was inappropriate sexual behavior.

“There are no words to express my sorrow and regret for the pain I have caused others by words and actions,” Lauer said in the statement released to the network. “To the people I have hurt, I am truly sorry.”

Lauer said that some of what he has been accused of is untrue and mischaracterized but said, “there is enough truth in these stories to make me feel embarrassed and ashamed.”

Lauer’s not a public official and he’s already out of his job, so the need for public accountability has largely been met already. While Lauer is — was — undeniably a public person in the legal sense and had a public trust in a moral sense, he’s not an elected or appointed public official. His accountability is to his employers, not the voters, and to the women who might choose to sue him in court over his actions. Nevertheless, Lauer decided to go public with an admission of some misconduct, which undercuts the notion spreading on the fringes yesterday that Lauer was getting railroaded.

Still, this statement is closer to Al Franken’s non-admission dodge than a full apology. It makes clear that Lauer doesn’t plan to contest the allegations, and probably for good reason; any attempt to rebut one or two of the allegations will only remind people of all the others and perhaps prompt even more women to come forward. However, Lauer wants to retain the benefit of the doubt, offering up an ambiguous denial that could be applied to any of the allegations. Alternately, he can also apply his generic apology across the whole spectrum of accusations too. It’s the kind of statement that a lawyer and a PR person would draft together to allow for as much wiggle room as possible, and should be viewed as such.

It won’t help Lauer avoid a recap of his history in light of these new allegations. And first on the list might be the weird end of Ann Curry’s run at Today, among others, which the Washington Post recaps:

Regardless, it all led to the horribly awkward televised moment in June, when Curry — whose imminent departure had been all over the news — broke down in tears as she bid goodbye to viewers. (Stelter wrote that Curry had long struggled with the “boys’ club atmosphere at ‘Today,’ ” and “she told friends that her final months were a form of professional torture.”)

As she told the audience it would be her last morning as a regular “Today” co-host (NBC named her an NBC News national and international correspondent), she said it was not how “I expected to ever leave this couch after 15 years.”

“For all of you who saw me as a groundbreaker: I’m sorry I couldn’t carry the ball over the finish line, but man, I did try!” Curry said tearfully. Things got worse after Lauer bid goodbye and tried to give her a kiss on the cheek, but she flinched and turned, and he kissed the side her head.

Curry hasn’t talked about it since Lauer’s departure, but she seems to be clearing her throat about it:

On Wednesday afternoon, Curry sat for a previously scheduled interview with People magazine and declined to comment about Lauer’s firing. “I’m still really processing it,” she said. However, she added, “The women’s movement got us into the workplace, but it didn’t make us safe once we got there. And the battle lines are now clear. We need to move this revolution forward and make our workplaces safe.”

We’ll be hearing more about this in the near future, and probably about a whole lot more, too. Lauer will have plenty of opportunity for “soul searching,” and that might also be true of others at NBC as these stories emerge.