NBC News has a full-fledged crisis on its hands. As more details emerge about former "Today" show host Matt Lauer's alleged serial "inappropriate sexual behavior" at the workplace, more questions emerge about what the company knew and when.
In the memo NBC News chairman Andrew Lack sent to employees on Wednesday announcing the firing of Lauer, he stated unequivocally that it was "the first complaint about his behavior in the over twenty years he's been here at NBC News."
However, Variety's report on Wednesday detailing some of the growing list of allegations against Lauer for sexual misconduct cites three unnamed NBC staffers who say "they complained to executives at the network about Lauer's behavior, which fell on deaf ears given the lucrative advertising surrounding 'Today.'" Here's the passage:
Several women told Variety they complained to executives at the network about Lauer’s behavior, which fell on deaf ears given the lucrative advertising surrounding “Today.” NBC declined to comment. For most of Lauer’s tenure at “Today,” the morning news show was No. 1 in the ratings, and executives were eager to keep him happy.
When pressed by CNN about the alleged previous complaints, NBC said "unequivocally" that the "current" management at the company was never made aware of any such complaints.
"We can say unequivocally, that, prior to Monday night, current NBC News management was never made aware of any complaints about Matt Lauer's conduct," an NBC spokesperson told CNN in a carefully worded statement, which allows for the possibility that previous management did know about such allegations.
Lack's bombshell memo Wednesday hinted at what has since transpired: multiple allegations of sexual misconduct against the host. Lack noted after claiming this is the "first complaint" against Lauer ever filed in his 20 years with the company that "we were also presented with reason to believe this may not have been an isolated incident."
More information about the "detailed complaint" to NBC on Monday night has come to light. The New York Times was in touch with the accuser, who met with NBC representatives Monday night for three hours and detailed, according to her lawyer, "egregious acts of sexual harassment and misconduct by Mr. Lauer."
While what she has alleged has not yet been made public, reports suggest that among them is that Lauer sexually harassed her while covering the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia.
On Thursday, Lauer responded to the growing list of allegations, expressing both his "sorrow and regret" for his actions but also saying that some of the allegations are "untrue or mischaracterized." Here's the full text of his statement reported by NBC on Thursday:
There are no words to express my sorrow and regret for the pain I have caused others by words and actions. To the people I have hurt, I am truly sorry. As I am writing this I realize the depth of the damage and disappointment I have left behind at home and at NBC."
"Some of what has been said about me is untrue or mischaracterized, but there is enough truth in these statements to make me feel embarrassed and ashamed. I regret that my shame is now shared by the people I cherish dearly. Repairing the damage will take a lot of time and soul searching and I’m committed to beginning that effort. It is now my full time job.
The last two days have forced me to take a very hard look at my own troubling flaws. It’s been humbling. I am blessed to be surrounded by the people I love. I thank them for their patience and grace.