Until just past noon on Wednesday, when Variety released the details of their several-month-long investigation of Today Show host Matt Lauer, no one (outside of perhaps fellow employees at NBC) knew the extent of his sexual misconduct.
And many were surprised and saddened to hear Lauer’s name among those of other accused men like Harvey Weinstein and Louis CK, when he was fired from the network earlier this week. Variety‘s reporting was cross-referenced, confirmed by several sources, and painfully blunt, painting a picture of Lauer that is very different from his family-friendly on-screen persona.
“Matt Lauer once gave a colleague a sex toy as a present. It included an explicit note about how he wanted to use it on her, which left her mortified,” the story, which was written by Ramin Setoodeh and Elizabeth Wagmeister, opens. He summoned a female employee to his office, and then dropped his pants, showing her his penis; then he reprimanded her for not engaging.
He would quiz female producers about who they’d slept with, offering to trade names. He also loved playing the game “f*ck, marry, kill,” calling out which co-hosts he’d most like to sleep with.
Coworkers say he was known for making lewd comments verbally or over text messages, and he once made a suggestive reference to a colleague’s performance in bed, comparing it to how she was able to complete her job, according to witnesses to the exchange.
“There is such shame with Matt Lauer not liking you…”
Sources told Variety that the misconduct occurred both at the NBC offices and while Lauer was on assignment around the world. But what makes this whole thing so shocking (at least to some) is how unshocking it actually is. There have been clues lying all over the place, starting with the firing of his longtime booker Matt Zimmerman following sexual assault allegations – Lauer had promoted Zimmerman to an executive position and enabled his rise in industry power. What’s more, during the London Olympics, Lauer allegedly told colleagues that his wife joined him on his trip because she didn’t trust him to go alone.
“There is such shame with Matt Lauer not liking you,” a former employee told Variety. “I did this special with him and we are traveling and I had a cold sore on my lip and I heard him say to Bryant Gumbel, ‘She has this really ugly cold sore on her lip,’ like that was something to be ashamed of. He was just really cruel.”
“I regret that my shame is now shared by the people I cherish dearly.”
Producers said that in the past, Lauer would frequently turn down stories regarding cheating husbands, but with the rise of sexual assault accusations over the past few weeks, there was no avoiding the topic. He had to do the interviews and report the stories, which made for lots of awkward turtle moments for those who knew what was going on behind closed (and shadily locked) doors.
“Think about those … women and what they did,” Lauer said while interviewing Fox’s former Bill O’Riley. “They came forward and filed complaints against the biggest star at the network they worked at. Think about how intimidating that must have been. Doesn’t that tell you how strongly they felt about you?” Chills.
His former co-host Savannah Guthrie was faced with reporting on her “dear, dear friend” yet again after he released a statement this morning, which said: “I regret that my shame is now shared by the people I cherish dearly.” It’s a possible acknowledgment of how hard it must be for his long-time friends to dutifully report on his mess. But, as all perpetrators have done thus far, he also took a step back from his apology to claim “some of what is being said about him is untrue or mischaracterized, but there is enough truth in these stories to make him feel embarrassed and ashamed.” A familiar statement that allows room for subtext to become the only text, maybe to be revealed through more blackout poetry.