Shortly before Today's Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb went on the air Wednesday, NBC News chairman Andy Lack dropped a bomb: Matt Lauer had been terminated amid allegations of sexual misconduct. Guthrie broke the news at the top of the 7 o'clock hour, reading Lack's memo to staff members and promising to cover the story with full transparency, no matter how difficult it was for her to accept. Lauer issued an apology Thursday, which was read in several times on Today. Kotb read it again at the top of the fourth hour, where Jenna Bush Hager, who had just ended a national book tour, was filling in for Kotb's regular co-host, Kathie Lee Gifford.
At times, it appeared as if Bush Hager was on the verge of tears.
"It was hard watching you all yesterday. When I started here, I remember someone saying, 'NBC, the Today show, is a family.' And that feels cliché. That feels like something people just say. But that's true," Bush Hager said. "So, when something rocks your family, it rocks all of us."
Bush Hager said it rocks not only the on-camera talent, but everyone who works behind the scenes, too. "And that includes a man who was a mentor to many of us," she said, "and the women who are here, too, who are part of that same family, who have come forward and want to feel listened to and feel safe and respected—and they should, and they do." She added, "It was hard not to be here yesterday. It's hard to be here today. I know many of you feel that same way because you've woken up with this family. I watched this show before I was on it."
Kotb could relate, saying, "It's a difficult period that we're in right now." Bush Hager then told her colleague, "I pray, and I know you do, too, for mercy for everybody who's involved in this."
After he was promoted from news reader to anchor in the late '90s, Lauer became an institution at Today. But no one is untouchable, and inappropriate behavior will not be tolerated. "When you think about a show that's been on the air 65 years, it goes on no matter who sits in these seats," Kotb said. "I remember growing up and watching it, too, and realizing, 'Wow, this show is going to be on for years to come—[long] after we all go through our turns.'"
In his apology, Lauer said he is taking a "hard look" at his "troubling flaws" and will do better. "Some of what is being said about me is untrue or mischaracterized, but there is enough truth in these stories to make me feel embarrassed and ashamed. I regret that my shame is now shared by the people I cherish deeply. Repairing the damage will take a lot of time and soul searching and I am committed to beginning that effort," he added. "It is now my full-time job."
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