Matt Lauer Fired From NBC News Over Inappropriate Sexual Behavior

Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb announced the news on Today Wednesday, while Kathie Lee Gifford and Megyn Kelly weighed in later

By Zach Johnson Nov 29, 2017 12:20 PMTags

Matt Lauer has been terminated from NBC News, Savannah Guthrie announced on Today Wednesday. On Monday night, NBC News chairman Andy Lack received a detailed complaint from a colleague about inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace on Lauer's behalf. As a result, the organization decided to terminate his employment. Hoda Kotb joined the anchor to announce his firing, "because this is a sad moment here at Today and NBC News," Guthrie said.

Guthrie then read the e-mail Lack sent NBC News staffers moments before. "Dear colleagues, on Monday night, we received a detailed complaint from a colleague about inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace by Matt Lauer. It represented, after serious review, a clear violation of our company's standards. As a result, we've decided to terminate his employment. 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. Our highest priority is to create a workplace environment where everyone feels safe and protected, and to ensure that any actions run counter to our core values are met with consequences, no matter who the offender," Lack wrote. "We are deeply saddened by this turn of events but we will face it together as a news organization—and do it in as transparent a manner as we can."

Noam Galai/WireImage

An emotional Guthrie remained professional as she delivered the news. "We just learned this moments ago, just this morning. As I'm sure you can imagine, we are devastated, and we are still processing all of this," she said. "And I will tell you right now, we do not know more than I just shared with you, but we will be covering this story as reporters as journalists. I'm sure we will be learning more details in the hours and days to come, and we promise we will share that with you. And Hoda, for the moment, all we can say is we are heartbroken. I'm heartbroken for Matt. He is my dear, dear friend and my partner and he is beloved by many people here. And I'm heartbroken for the brave colleague who came forward to tell her story, and any other women who have their own stories to tell. We are grappling with a dilemma that so many people have faced these last few weeks: How do you reconcile your love for someone with the revelation that they have behaved badly? And I don't know the answer to that. But I do know that this reckoning that so many organizations have been going through his important, it's long overdue, and it must result in workplaces where all women—all people—feel safe and respected. As painful as it is, this moment in our culture and this change had to happen."

"Yeah, it did," Kotb said. "This is a very tough morning for both of us. I've known Matt for 15 years and I've loved him as a friend and a colleague. And again, just like you were saying, Savannah, it's hard to reconcile what we are hearing with the man who we know, who walks in this building every single day. We were both woken up with the news kind of pre-dawn. We're trying to process it and trying to make sense of it, and it'll take some time for that."

"We're processing it with all of you at home," Guthrie told Today's loyal viewers, "and we promise to be transparent and be straightforward and continue this important conversation."

Today's Megyn Kelly addressed Lauer's exit in the 9 a.m. hour., re-reading Lack's e-mail memo to staff members and re-airing Guthrie and Kotb's announcement from earlier in the broadcast.

"This one hits close to home. I too have known Matt for a long time, and he has been a friend and kind and supportive of me in my transition to NBC News," the television anchor began. "I see the anguish on my colleagues' faces, but when this happens, what we don't see is the pain on the faces of those who found the courage to come forward, and it is a terrifying thing to do. We don't see the career opportunities women lose because of sexual harassment or the intense stress it causes a woman dealing with it when she comes to work each day. I am thinking of those women this morning and hoping they are OK. The days to come will not be easy."

"We are in the middle of a sea change in this country, an empowering revolution, in which women who for years felt they had no choice but to simply deal with being harassed at work are now starting to picture another reality, to feel that change is within their grasp. As painful as this moment is for so many here at NBC today, at CBS earlier this month, at Fox News over the last year, in Hollywood this fall, it is a sign of progress, of women finding their voices, their courage and of the erosion of a shameful power imbalance that has been in place far too long."

"A final note: I have been at another news channel where this happened, as you know," Kelly said, referring to Fox News' Roger Ailes' alleged sexual harassment. "And my experience is a news organization is bigger than any one person. They all face challenges. They all stumble. But the good ones stay standing and forge forward, fulfilling their core mission: journalism. We'll continue to stay on this story and bring you more as we know it. Until then, on with the news."

Kotb joined Kathie Lee Gifford to discuss Lauer in the fourth hour. "The processing is going to take a lot of time. Again, it's that feeling that we were talking about. I think everybody at home has felt something this way: You've loved someone so much, and then you hear something and you go, 'Wait, what? How does that make sense?' You grapple with that in your head and you try to make sense out of it. And it does take time," she said. "You can't figure it out overnight."

Gifford, who used a tissue to wipe her eyes, was visibly stunned by the news of Lauer's exit. "I don't know. I'm grappling with, 'Should I even share something?' But, I guess I really should. I don't feel that Matt has betrayed us in any way at all, but when I found out that my husband had betrayed me, you question your own judgment. You say, 'Was everything a lie? Was everything a lie?'" she said. "And I think we have to fight against that—very much fight against that—that the man we know and adored was the man we loved and adored, and continue to."

After the news was made public, Gifford reached out to her former colleague to offer her support. "I texted him this morning and said, 'I adore you.' And no person is perfect in this world. Nobody is. We've all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, is what Scripture says. And what we need now is forgiveness, and we need mercy for one another," Gifford added. "And we don't need taunts and we don't need ugliness. We have enough of that in the world."

"I send out my love right now to the person, whoever it is, who came forward. May God heal that person. I send it to Matt and his children and his wife. May God bless that family and heal—and heal! I'm sorry, Hoda, but in my long life, the only thing I've ever been sure of is that only God can heal it," Gifford said. "There's no bad time to reach out for His help. No bad time."

"You are right," Hotb said. "It's guided you throughout your life."

Gifford wanted to offer a message of hope to viewers everywhere. "We are all so broken. We're broken. We need somebody to put us back together. It's possible! It is so possible. I am living proof of that," she said. "I have millions of friends; I hear from them all the time: 'It's possible!'"

"I didn't mean to go to church," Gifford admitted, "but sometimes you've got to go to church."

Lauer has not commented on his termination. He joined Today as a news reader in 1994 and became an anchor three years later, after Bryant Gumbel stepped down. On the show, he worked with co-anchors Katie Couric, Meredith Vieira, Ann Curry, and most recently, Guthrie.

During his two decades with Today, Lauer interviewed heads of state (George W. Bush, Barack Obama), members of the royal family (Prince Harry, Prince William), religious leaders (Pope Benedict XVI), and celebrities (Tom Cruise, Angelina Jolie, Julia Roberts, Will Smith). He reported on major events, like the Sept. 11 terror attacks and Hurricane Katrina, and last year, he also moderated one of the presidential debates between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

Prior to his termination, Lauer, who is married with three children, also contributed to Dateline NBC and the now-defunct Rock Center With Brian Williams. He also hosted the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and Christmas in Rockefeller Center specials on NBC.

Lauer's firing comes a week after both CBS and PBS fired Charlie Rose amid similar allegations.

(E! and NBC are both members of the NBCUniversal family.)