NBC News Starts Internal Review of How It Handled Matt Lauer Harassment Allegations

Matt Lauer Today Show interview
Credit:RW/MediaPunch Inc./IPX

NBC News, under intense scrutiny since it fired “Today” anchor Matt Lauer in the wake of revelations of incidents involving him and sexual harassment under its corporate aegis, said it would conduct an internal review of its handling of the matter.

“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 Friday, “At the conclusion of the review we will share what we’ve learned, no matter how painful, and act on it.”

The NBCUniversal unit has been under a microscope since revealing earlier this week that it had terminated Lauer, who greeted viewers on “Today” for more than two decades, for what it said was “inappropriate sexual behavior.” NBC News on Wednesday disclosed that it had“received a detailed complaint from a colleague about inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace” by Lauer. “It represented, after serious review, a clear violation of our company’s standards.” Variety in a report detailed multiple allegations of untoward behavior, citing three women who have identified themselves as victims of sexual harassment by Lauer. Since that time, more allegations about the star anchor’s behavior have come to light. NBC News has confirmed two more women came forward since it terminated the TV journalist’s contract.

“This week we saw that when an employee comes forward to report misconduct, the system works. The complaint is quickly assessed and meaningful action is taken,” said Lack in the memo. “But we also learned that we must do a much better job of making people feel empowered to take that crucial first step of reporting bad behavior.” The allegations surrounding Lauer include incidents that took place several years ago, and suggest an ongoing pattern of behavior taking place over a longer period of time. “Many of you have asked what we are doing to learn as much as we can about the circumstances around Matt Lauer’s appalling behavior, why this was able to happen, and why it wasn’t reported sooner,” Lack acknowledged.

NBC News intends to bolster training about recognizing sexual harassment, Lack said, and also outlined avenues employees have to report it. The executive said NBC News would launch “an immediate effort to implement in-person training on sexual harassment awareness and appropriate behavior in the workplace,” in addition to online training it has already provided. He also said the unit would encourage ” leaders of every group to have smaller, more informal gatherings to further discuss this crucial issue now and on an ongoing basis.”

The techniques are similar to those utilized by another news outlet that faced allegations of sexual harassment at the workplace. Fox News Channel mandated a new round of training for employees in the wake of many lawsuits and disclosures alleging untoward sexually aggressive behavior at the company that surfaced after the ouster of former chief Roger Ailes. In recent months, Fox News has installed new human-resources executives, and in November, its corporate parent, 21st Century Fox, unveiled a workplace council set at Fox News to advise senior management on matters ranging from corporate environment and recruitment to advancement of women and minorities. The new council was set up in response to complaints from investors in 21st Century Fox.

Lack reminded NBC News staffers of the options they have at their disposal, including managers and human-resources executives as well as specially designated employee hotlines and email addresses manned by NBCUniversal and its corporate parent, Comcast.

“We also want to reinforce with our managers and leaders their responsibility to bring forward concerns about inappropriate workplace behavior they see or hear about,” Lack said. “It is always the right thing to do, and any concerns raised should be done without fear of retaliation, and with full assurance that they will be investigated.”