NBC News fires Matt Lauer for alleged 'inappropriate sexual behavior'

PHOTO: Matt Lauer on the "Today" show in this Nov. 21, 2017 file photo.PlayNathan Congleton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images
WATCH Matt Lauer fired for alleged 'inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace'

NBC News has fired "Today" host Matt Lauer after a colleague accused him of "inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace," the network said today.

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NBC News chairman Andrew Lack announced Lauer's termination in a memo Wednesday morning, which was obtained by ABC News. He said the company received "a detailed complaint from a colleague" Monday night "about inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace by Matt Lauer."

"It represented, after serious review, a clear violation of our company's standards," Lack continued. "As a result, we've decided to terminate his employment. While it is the first complaint about his behavior in the over twenty 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 that run counter to our core values are met with consequences."

PHOTO: Matt Lauer on the Today show in this Nov. 8, 2017 file photo.Nathan Congleton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images
Matt Lauer on the "Today" show in this Nov. 8, 2017 file photo.

Lauer's co-host Savannah Guthrie read the memo on air at the start of the show Wednesday morning. She told viewers that she and others were "still processing" Lauer's firing.

"We learned this moments ago, just this morning. As you can imagine, we are devastated, and we are still processing all of this," she said. "I will tell you, we do not know more than what I just shared with you. But we will be covering this story, as reporters, as journalists.

"I'm heartbroken for Matt. He is my dear, dear friend and my partner, and he is beloved by many, many people here," she continued. "And I'm heartbroken for the brave colleague that came forward to tell her story and any other women who have their own stories to tell."

NBC News correspondent Stephanie Gosk, citing a network representative, reported on the show Wednesday that a "spokesperson for the company says the accuser described inappropriate sexual behavior throughout 2014. And because of the seriousness of the accusations, together with information that it may not be an isolated incident, NBC decided to terminate Lauer's contract.”

Washington, D.C. attorney Ari Wilkenfeld, who represents the unnamed accuser, referred ABC News to the following statement he gave to The New York Times and declined to comment further:

“My client and I met with representatives from NBC’s human resources and legal departments at 6 p.m. on Monday for an interview that lasted several hours. Our impression at this point is that NBC acted quickly, as all companies should, when confronted with credible allegations of sexual misconduct in the workplace.”

NBC received at least two more complaints related to Lauer, The New York Times reported later Wednesday, citing a person briefed on the matter.

One of the complaints was made by a former employee who, reports The Times, was asked to come to Lauer’s office to discuss a story. He proceeded to lock his office door. According to The Times report, "The woman said Mr. Lauer asked her to unbutton her blouse, which she did. She said the anchor then stepped out from behind his desk, pulled down her pants, bent her over a chair and had intercourse with her." The woman told the Times she passed out and had to be taken to the nurse. She said she did not report the alleged incident because she didn’t want to lose her job and felt ashamed.

Jim Rutenberg, The New York Times reporter who broke the Lauer story, said in a telephone interview on "Good Morning America" Wednesday, "There had been these rumors going around for some time; reporters started chasing them, and clearly it got the attention, as it should have.”

"But the move by Andy Lack was swift, and let there be no doubt that this is a seismic moment in our culture and in the media," he added.

Lauer's firing comes a week after CBS News terminated veteran journalist Charlie Rose over accusations of sexual misconduct from multiple women from the production company of his interview program.

Variety also published a story late Wednesday afternoon with personal accounts by unnamed women describing Lauer’s alleged sexual misconduct.

In the story, sources claimed that Lauer allegedly exposed himself to a female employee, gave a separate female an employee an inappropriate gift and spoke of his colleagues in lewd ways.

ABC News has not been able to verify these additional claims and a request for comment from Lauer’s camp and NBC was not immediately returned.

ABC News' JuJu Chang and Matt Foster contributed to this report.

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