NBC News claimed Wednesday that Matt Lauer was fired for a single incident of alleged sexual misbehavior stemming from the newscaster's coverage of the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio. But an extensive expose, published later Wednesday in Variety magazine, portrays Lauer as more than just a one-time harasser.
According to the magazine, Lauer is a sophisticated sexual predator who cowed and embarrassed his female employees with sexually explicit gifts, and even had a button installed under his office desk so that he could lock unsuspecting women inside.
Variety's claims are downright shocking. According to one woman, Lauer gave a sex toy to a colleague as a present along with "an explicit note about how he wanted to use it on her" — an experience that reportedly left the woman "mortified."
Another woman who spoke with Variety said that the anchor had a habit of exposing himself. Lauer, the magazine alleges, “summoned a female employee to his office, and then dropped his pants, showing her his penis. After the employee declined to do anything, visibly shaken, he reprimanded her for not engaging in a sexual act.”
The article goes on to describe "games" that Lauer would play with his co-hosts and other female reporters, asking them to trade names of who they'd slept with (if they told him the name of one of their partners, he'd tell them one of his), and engaging them in rounds of "f*ck, marry, kill," where his embarrassed colleagues would have to listen as he described which of his co-workers he'd put in each category.
Perhaps most bizarre, Lauer, Variety claims, had something referred to as a "Lauer lock": Lauer "had a button under his desk that allowed him to lock his door from the inside without getting up … It allowed him to welcome female employees and initiate inappropriate contact while knowing nobody could walk in on him.”
At least two women reported that they were exposed to sexual harassment that involved the lock button.
Variety says that they spoke to "dozens" of women over the course of a two-month investigation, but Variety's reporters also say they didn't need to do specific interviews: that Lauer's behavior was an open secret among NBC employees and that management went out of its way to ignore Lauer's sexual impropriety.
"Management sucks there,” one source told the magazine. “They protected the s— out of Matt Lauer.”