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2017-11-29 11:25:03
NBC Fires Matt Lauer Over Sexual Misconduct Allegation

The reckoning over sexual harassment in the workplace claimed another leading television personality on Wednesday when NBC fired its leading morning news anchor, Matt Lauer, over a sexual harassment allegation.

“On Monday night, we received a detailed complaint from a colleague about inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace by Matt Lauer,” Andrew Lack, the NBC News president, said in a memo to the staff.

He said the allegation against Mr. Lauer “represented, after serious review, a clear violation of our company’s standards. As a result, we’ve decided to terminate his employment.”

“While it is the first complaint about his behavior in the over 20 years he’s been at NBC News, we were also presented with reason to believe this may not have been an isolated incident,” Mr. Lack said.

Ari Wilkenfeld, a civil rights lawyer with the firm Wilkenfeld, Herendeen & Atkinson in Washington, said he represented the woman who made the complaint to NBC, but declined to publicly identify her. In a statement provided to The New York Times, he said:

“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.

“While I am encouraged by NBC’s response to date, I am in awe of the courage my client showed to be the first to raise a complaint and to do so without making any demands other than the company do the right thing.”

The Times met with the woman Monday afternoon, but she said she was not ready to come forward and tell her story publicly.

Mr. Lauer’s co-host, Savannah Guthrie, announced the news on “Today” on Wednesday morning. Appearing on the verge of tears, Ms. Guthrie said, “All we can say is we are heartbroken; I’m heartbroken.”

She described Mr. Lauer as “a dear, dear friend,” and said she was “heartbroken for the brave colleague who came forward to tell her story.”

Calling Mr. Lauer’s dismissal part of a national reckoning, she continued, “How do you reconcile your love for someone with the revelation that they have behaved badly?”

Mr. Lauer’s termination was just the latest in a string of firings involving the very top stars in television news — coming after the ouster of Bill O’Reilly, of Fox News, last April and Charlie Rose, of CBS, earlier this month.

But it also involves the most important part of the NBC News franchise, “Today,” which is a profit driver and highly rated morning program. Mr. Lauer, a co-anchor since 1997, was the centerpiece of the show.

The “Today” staff learned the news shortly before going live. Giving the weather report, a visibly shaken Al Roker said, “I’m still trying to process the news.” Soon after announcing the dismissal, Ms. Guthrie gripped the hand of Hoda Kotb, who was rushed in as an emergency substitute host.

The move by NBC represents one of the few examples of a company taking pre-emptive action over sexual harassment complaints before any allegations had become public.

Mr. Lauer’s dismissal was seized upon by President Trump, who went on to ask in a tweet when executives at NBC and Comcast, the network’s parent company, would “be fired for putting out so much fake news.”