After I had several hours to process the Matt Lauer news and really dissect what was being said officially and what wasn’t being said, I started to get even more pissed off. NBC corporate acted as if Lauer’s terrible behavior was brand-new information, and Lauer’s coworkers acted that way too. It’s bullsh-t – I think when all is said and done, we’ll find out that NBC knew all about this. Especially because Lauer was on a lot of people’s lists for “hey, I bet he gets outed in Sex Predatorgate 2017.” The New York Times was digging into Lauer’s history, and soon after the news broke on Wednesday morning, Elizabeth Wagmeister at Variety tweeted that she and Variety reporter Ramin Setoodeh had been “working on a Matt Lauer story for months and NBC was aware. There are multiple women we’ve spoken to with far-ranging accusations against Lauer.” But NBC had NO IDEA, you guys. They only heard about it on Monday, y’all! As for that Variety piece, it dropped Wednesday afternoon – you can read the full piece here. Highlights:
As the co-host of NBC’s “Today,” 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. On another day, he summoned a different female employee to his office, and then dropped his pants, showing her his penis. After the employee declined to do anything, visibly shaken, he reprimanded her for not engaging in a sexual act.
He would sometimes quiz female producers about who they’d slept with, offering to trade names. And he loved to engage in a crass quiz game with men and women in the office: “f—, marry, or kill,” in which he would identify the female co-hosts that he’d most like to sleep with.
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.
Despite being married, Lauer was fixated on women, especially their bodies and looks, according to more than 10 accounts from current and former employees. He was known for making lewd comments verbally or over text messages. He once made a suggestive reference to a colleague’s performance in bed and compared it to how she was able to complete her job, according to witnesses to the exchange. For Lauer, work and sex were intertwined.
“There were a lot of consensual relationships, but that’s still a problem because of the power he held,” says a former producer who knew first-hand of these encounters. “He couldn’t sleep around town with celebrities or on the road with random people, because he’s Matt Lauer and he’s married. So he’d have to do it within his stable, where he exerted power, and he knew people wouldn’t ever complain.”
Lauer, who was paranoid about being followed by tabloid reporters, grew more emboldened at 30 Rockefeller Center as his profile rose following Katie Couric’s departure from “Today” in 2006. His office was in a secluded space, and he had a button under his desk that allowed him to lock his door from the inside without getting up. This afforded him the assurance of privacy. It allowed him to welcome female employees and initiate inappropriate contact while knowing nobody could walk in on him, according to two women who were sexually harassed by Lauer.
According to sources, the sexual harassment extended to when Lauer traveled on assignment for NBC. Several employees recall how he paid intense attention to a young woman on his staff that he found attractive, focusing intently on her career ambitions. And he asked the same producer to his hotel room to deliver him a pillow, according to sources with knowledge of the interaction.
This was part of a pattern. According to multiple accounts, independently corroborated by Variety, Lauer would invite women employed by NBC late at night to his hotel room while covering the Olympics in various cities over the years. The spotlight on Lauer intensified earlier this month, when his longtime booker Matt Zimmerman was fired over sexual harassment complaints. The two were very close, and Lauer had promoted Zimmerman to a high executive position and offered him a powerful perch.
Lauer’s conduct was not a secret among other employees at “Today,” numerous sources say. At least one of the anchors would gossip about stories she had heard, spreading them among the staff. “Management sucks there,” says a former reporter, who asked not to be identified, speaking about executives who previously worked at the show. “They protected the s— out of Matt Lauer.”
Wow, I’m sad that I was right about the Lauer story getting worse. There’s so much awful sh-t in here, but this is the part that made my blood turn cold: “He couldn’t sleep around town with celebrities or on the road with random people, because he’s Matt Lauer and he’s married. So he’d have to do it within his stable, where he exerted power, and he knew people wouldn’t ever complain.” WITHIN HIS STABLE. Jesus Christ, these dudes really still think it’s the 1950s and all of them are entitled to “play grab-ass” and chase secretaries around the desk, huh? As for the rest of it – I believe it. I believe all of it.
Suspiciously, before the Variety story dropped, People Magazine was working overtime to try to clean up Lauer’s image and gloss over the fact that Lauer’s predations were well-known within 30 Rock. Sources told People that Lauer’s termination is “like a death in the family. Everybody is crying. No one knows what the f— happened. It came out of nowhere.” No, it didn’t come out of nowhere. You just weren’t paying attention to all of the young women who came running out of Lauer’s Look At My Penis Cave with the auto-bolted lock. A source also told People: “He regularly cheated on his wife. Everyone knew. His wife lives in the Hamptons and he lives in the city, but we never heard he made unwanted moves.” Another source: “He wasn’t a lech and he wasn’t known as someone who would corner you or retaliate against you if you spurned him or someone who would lure you into his dressing room.” O RLY????????
Photos courtesy of WENN.