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'Today' host Matt Lauer fired for 'inappropriate' behavior

Matt Lauer was fired from his post at

Matt Lauer was fired from his post at "The Today Show," NBC News said Wednesday. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Dimitrios Kambouris

NBC News is conducting an internal review of how it handled harassment claims brought forward against former "Today" anchor Matt Lauer, the network said Friday.

"A team of the most experienced NBCUniversal legal and human resources leaders have begun a thorough and timely review of what happened and what we can do to build a culture of greater transparency, openness and respect for each other," said Andrew Lack, chairman of NBC News and MSNBC, in a memo to staffers.

"At the conclusion of the review, we will share what we've learned, no matter how painful, and act on it."

The network is also opposing Lauer's attempts to negotiate a payout on the multimillion-dollar salary promised by his current contract, an NBC insider told The Associated Press. The former anchor — one of TV's highest-paid journalists — is angling to collect the remainder of a reported $25 million from NBC.

All eyes were on the network following the termination of the anchor on Wednesday for "inappropriate sexual behavior." In a memo sent to staff and read on-air by Lauer's co-host Savannah Guthrie, NBC said a colleague had come forward earlier this week with 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," NBC said in a statement.

On Thursday, Lauer apologized and said he was "soul searching" in a statement read out on the "Today" show.

"There are no words to express my sorrow and regret for the pain I have caused others by words and actions," he said in the statement. "To the people I have hurt, I am truly sorry."

Lauer said that some of what he has been accused of is untrue and mischaracterized but said, "there is enough truth in these stories to make me feel embarrassed and ashamed."

Following his firing, more accusations of sexual harassment were revealed in a Variety article. The former host was accused of summoning a female employee to his office, dropping his pants and reprimanding her for not engaging in a sexual act, according to the article. 

Lauer also allegedly gave a colleague a sex toy and wrote in a note how he wanted to use it on her, Variety reported. The exclusive report revealed that several women at the network had complained about Lauer's behavior previously, but their accounts "fell on deaf ears."

Guthrie read the statement about his firing at the start of Wednesday morning's show, saying she had been informed of his ouster only moments before the broadcast began. 

"We are grappling with a dilemma that so many people have faced these last few weeks: How do you reconcile your love for someone with the revelation that they have behaved badly?" she said alongside Hoda Kotb. 

Kotb, who has called Lauer, 59, a friend for the past 15 years, said this was a "very tough morning" for her. 

"It's hard to reconcile what we are hearing with the man who we know who walks in this building every single day," she said. 

The co-anchors initially said they did not have information about the incident other than what the statement provided, but assured viewers that they would be covering the story in as transparent a manner as possible. 

NBC News reporter Stephanie Gosk said the colleague who filed the report accused Lauer of misconduct in the workplace "throughout 2014." 

Civil rights lawyer Ari Wilkenfeld is reportedly representing the unnamed woman who filed the complaint, according to the New York Times

“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," Wilkenfeld told the Times.

The complaint reportedly details alleged sexual misconduct that took place while Lauer and the woman were covering the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics in Russia. 

Al Roker commented on Lauer's termination by adding, "We're dealing with the news about a friend of 30 years and we're all trying to process it."

According to Fortune Magazine, Lauer signed a two-year deal in 2016 that would pay him $20 million per year. He joined "Today" in January 1994. The anchor has interviewed presidents George Bush and Barack Obama and broadcast from seven Olympic games.

It remains unclear who Lauer's "Today" replacement will be. 

President Donald Trump took to Twitter to comment on Lauer's firing Wednesday morning, saying that the network's top execs should be terminated as well. 

"Wow, Matt Lauer was just fired from NBC for 'inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace.' But when will the top executives at NBC & Comcast be fired for putting out so much Fake News. Check out Andy Lack's past!" he wrote.

With Reuters

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