After Matt Lauer's fast firing by NBC for "inappropriate sexual behavior" longtime Today show fans are wondering what exactly happened and how serious the allegations were. It is widely believed that the network wouldn't make such a quick decision if Lauer had simply made offensive comments. Other pundits believe that NBC is trying to ward off huge lawsuits and a potentially damaging outcry from blue-chip advertisers.
Savannah Guthrie fought back tears this morning as she told viewers about the news. “This is a sad morning at NBC News,” she said. “We just learned this moments ago. Just this morning. As I’m sure you can imagine, we are devastated and we are still processing all of this. And I will tell you right now 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 sure we will be learning more details in the hours and days to come. And we promise we will share that with you.”
NBC News Chairman Andy Lack and other network executives knew for a number of weeks that The New York Times and Variety were investigating claims by multiple women.
On Monday night, we received a detailed complaint from a colleague about inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace by Matt Lauer. It represented, after serious review, a clear violation of our company's standards. 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, no matter who the offender. We are deeply saddened by this turn of events. But we will face it together as a news organization -- and do it in as transparent a manner as we can. To that end, Noah and I will be meeting with as many of you as possible throughout the day today to answer your questions.
Variety's New York bureau chief Ramin Setoodeh said "there were multiple victims." That, of course, leads to many more questions about what the nature of the allegations were. There is speculation that the accuser claimed he sexually assaulted her during the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014.
An NBC insider told Page Six Lauer’s accuser complained to HR on Monday: “This happened so quickly. She didn’t go to the media, she made a complaint to NBC’s human resources, and her evidence was so compelling that Matt was fired on Tuesday night. The victim says she has evidence that this has also happened to other women, but so far we don’t have evidence of that.”
CBS news and PBS fired iconic newsman Charlie Rose last week after The Washington Post reported accounts from eight women alleging unwanted sexual advances. Last month Mark Halperin was booted by NBC for similar allegations. Unlike politicans, the media has been quick to respond to allegations the last few weeks. Instead of suspending veteran newsmen, networks have taken definitive action.
Matt Lauer's firing leaves a gaping hole in the morning hour, which has been a hotly contested time slot for NBC. For decades the Today show has been in a huge ratings war with Good Morning America. And this will give GMA a clear leg-up. At least for now.
The ratings war continued when the Today show hired Megyn Kelly to replace Tamron Hall and Al Roker in the 9 a.m. hour. So how bad were NBC’s ratings at the time?
In March 2017 ABC announced that GMA had its largest total viewership lead in 14 months, though a lot of that was because of the Oscars. Today, meanwhile, had been No. 1 in the key demographic for 20 months prior.
But recently there's been an upturn in the Today show ratings. Though Good Morning America is still more watched than Today, the NBC program is the most watched by viewers between the ages of 25 and 54. Last week, Today had 4.23 million viewers, while GMA had 4.33 million.
Now, of course, the question is who will replace Matt Lauer. In the past many pundits speculated that Josh Elliott could replace Lauer.
In April 2014, ABC announced that Josh Elliott, formerly the news anchor for Good Morning America, would leave the morning show for NBC Sports. Elliott had previous experience in sports having served as an ESPN anchor before taking the GMA gig.
“Josh made it clear that if he was going to stay at GMA, he wanted $8 million a year, and he wanted George Stephanopoulos’ job now,” a source told Page Six at the time. “ABC chiefs made it very clear that this was not going to happen — he would never knock George off the top spot. Now Josh is going to NBC Sports. He can’t work for the NBC News division for six months because of the non-compete terms of his ABC contract. But he is still pushing hard, aiming for Matt Lauer or Bob Costas’ job.”
Most recently, Elliott was at CBS News and then ousted in February 2017. At the time, the news division released the following statement: “CBS News and Josh Elliott are parting ways. Josh will no longer be reporting for CBS News. We are grateful for his contributions over the last year, and we wish him the very best in his future endeavors.”
In 2012, Lauer signed a multi-year contract with NBC, reportedly worth between $20 million and $25 million per year, according to Fortune. Last year he reportedly signed another contract through 2018.
“It’s hard to reconcile with what we are hearing with the man who we know, who walks in this building every single day,” Hoda Kotb said this morning. “We were both woken up with the news, kind of pre-dawn, and we’re trying to process it and trying to make sense of it – and it’ll take some time for that.”
Are you shocked that Matt Lauer was fired so quickly? And who do you think NBC should hire to replace him? Let us know your take in the comments section below!