The news that Matt Lauer had been fired from his job as the host of “Today” after two decades on the air was a seismic moment for the long-running program. Within 48 hours of learning of allegations against the anchor, NBC News took swift action to terminate his employment.
Lauer is just the latest high-profile media figure to become embroiled in scandal. In the weeks since the Harvey Weinstein news first broke, allegations have been levied against prominent men in all industries, from politics to technology, from entertainment to fashion, but those who cover the news have also found themselves becoming the news, including “CBS This Morning” anchor Charlie Rose, NPR news chief Michael Oreskes, New York Times political reporter Glenn Thrush, and political analyst Mark Halperin.
On Monday night, NBC News learned of a detailed complaint against Lauer about “inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace,” according to a statement to employees from NBC News chairman Andy Lack. “It represented, after serious review, a clear violation of our company’s standards,” he wrote. “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.”
Lauer’s co-anchors learned of the news Wednesday morning just before going on-air with “Today,” and were visibly shocked as they broke the news to viewers. “We are grappling with a dilemma that so many people have faced these past few weeks: How do you reconcile your love for someone with the revelation that they have behaved badly and I don’t know the answer to that,” said Savannah Guthrie.
Lauer has not yet commented on the news.
Rose was ousted from his roles on CBS, PBS and Bloomberg last week when news broke in the Washington Post of several women accusing him of sexual harassment and unwanted advances. In announcing his termination, CBS News president David Rhodes said in a statement, “Despite Charlie’s important journalistic contribution to our news division, there is absolutely nothing more important, in this or any organization, than ensuring a safe, professional workplace.”
It fell to Rose’s colleagues, Gayle King and Norah O’Donnell, to address his exit from the program. “This is not the man I know, but I’m clearly on the side of the women who have been very hurt and very damaged by this,” said O’Donnell.
Rose apologized for his behavior in a statement, saying, “It is essential that these women know I hear them and that I deeply apologize for my inappropriate behavior. I am greatly embarrassed. I have behaved insensitively at times, and I accept responsibility for that, though I do not believe that all of these allegations are accurate.”
Political analyst Mark Halperin was suspended from his position at NBC News — and had projects canceled at Showtime (“The Circus”) and HBO (a planned follow-up to “Game Change”) — after news broke that at least a dozen women accused him of sexual harassment during his previous role at ABC News.
“I am profoundly sorry for the pain and anguish I have caused by my past actions. I apologize sincerely to the women I have mistreated,” said Halperin in a statement.
National Public Radio’s chief editor Michael Oreskes resigned on Nov. 1 after he was placed on leave following sexual harassment allegations dating back almost two decades. Two women said he kissed them abruptly during conversations about their jobs when he was the Washington bureau chief for the New York Times in the 1990s. After that news broke, more women came forward with their own accounts of inappropriate behavior.
“We take these kinds of allegations very seriously,” NPR said in a statement. “If a concern is raised, we review the matter promptly and take appropriate steps as warranted to assure a safe, comfortable and productive work environment. As a matter of policy, we do not comment about personnel matters.”
His exit was followed by the departure on Wednesday of NPR’s chief news editor David Sweeney, after sexual harassment allegations were lodged against him. “This is a difficult time for our newsroom and I’m committed to supporting all of you as we move forward,” said acting SVP of news Chris Turpin in a memo to staff.
And the New York Times’ star reporter Glenn Thrush, who covered the White House for the paper, was suspended following a Vox report of inappropriate behavior toward women. “The alleged behavior is very concerning and not in keeping with the standards and values of The New York Times,” said a Times spokeswoman said in a statement. Thrush apologized in a statement of his own, writing, “I apologize to any woman who felt uncomfortable in my presence, and for any situation where I behaved inappropriately. Any behavior that makes a woman feel disrespected or uncomfortable is unacceptable.”