NBC News employees are upset that a disgraced producer is being offered a severance after being fired for sexual harassment earlier this week, Variety has learned.
On Tuesday, NBC announced that it was axing Matt Zimmerman, senior vice president of booking in the company’s news division, after an internal investigation into allegations about his behavior with staff. “We have recently learned that Matt Zimmerman engaged in inappropriate conduct with more than one woman at NBCU, which violated company policy,” read a statement. “As a result, he has been dismissed.”
Employees are wondering why NBC is in discussions with Zimmerman about offering him an exit package when he was fired for cause. The terms are still being negotiated. “It sends the wrong message,” says a source with knowledge of staff morale.
NBC declined to comment. Zimmerman couldn’t be reached for comment.
Zimmerman came to NBC out of college in 2004. He was eventually named Matt Lauer’s booker, and he was favored by the “Today” co-host. In 2014, Lauer made the decision to create a new position for Zimmerman, where he managed all big gets for all of NBC’s new shows, with considerable clout and resources.
According to multiple sources, Zimmerman pushed out some of the staffers who were male and more senior, replacing them with young women. Over time, these sources say, he pursued more than one relationship with women on his team. He sent inappropriate text messages late at night, which were discovered in the HR probe.
After the investigation concluded, executives met to decide Zimmerman’s fate. NBC News president Noah Oppenheim was supportive of letting him go, and a decision was made quickly, sources say.
“Today” later held an all-staff meeting to discuss Zimmerman’s firing, and to reassure employees that there would be no retaliation.
NBC News has taken heat for not running an investigation into Harvey Weinstein that was being worked on by correspondent Ronan Farrow. Instead, Farrow took his story to the New Yorker. His bombshell reporting, which details how the movie mogul sexually assaulted and harassed dozens of women, has led to a national dialogue about sexual harassment in the workplace.
Meanwhile, Megyn Kelly, on the third hour of “Today,” has frequently and aggressively covered this topic. “The abuse of women, the shaming of them, the threatening, the retaliation, the silencing of them after the fact — it has to stop,” Kelly said last month about the firing of her former colleague Bill O’Reilly on Fox News.