NBC is closing the door on the Matt Lauer investigation—and giving some answers on its most controversial elements.
Following Lauer’s firing in November over sexual misconduct allegations, NBC launched a probe into his conduct at the network.
General counsel Kim Harris led the review, along with two outside law firms. The team interviewed 68 past and present NBC staffers and reviewed Lauer’s emails and text messages, along with those of Today show leadership.
Harris’ final report was released today. She determined there were no complaints about Lauer prior to the one that led to his firing—three additional women came forward after his termination.
All four women confirmed that they did not tell their direct managers or anyone else in a position of authority about their sexual encounters with Lauer. The alleged episodes occurred in 2000, 2001, 2007 and 2014, respectively.
Other employees said Lauer was flirtatious, commented on their appearance and sometimes made sexual jokes. But they also said Lauer didn’t pursue them further after they ignored him, and so they didn’t report his behavior to management.
Many witnesses said they had heard rumors about Lauer’s personal life, including his troubled marriage and possible extramarital affairs. But they all believed that these dalliances were with women outside the company, and so they didn’t feel the need to report them.
A few employees who did have concerns “assumed nothing would be done to address them… given Lauer’s perceived importance to the news division,” the report said.
Throughout NBC’s investigation, network leadership also denied that former Today co-host Ann Curry had discussed Lauer’s behavior with them.
Curry told The Washington Post that a woman came to her in 2012 saying Lauer had sexually harassed her, and that she had warned management about him. But managers said they had never had such a conversation with her.
Another controversial aspect of Lauer’s story was the button that allegedly allowed him to lock the office door from his desk.
But according to NBC’s facilities team, many network executives in older offices had this control as an efficient way to close the door without getting up from the desk.
NBC’s version of this device released a magnet that held the door open, but it did not lock the door from the inside. Executives often used this feature for privacy during personal calls, or as a security measure during an active shooter situation (similar to a panic button).
But Lauer used it to initiate inappropriate contact, while ensuring nobody would walk in on him.
In order to get past Lauer’s misdeeds, the investigation team recommended that NBC should take “immediate, concrete steps to create a lasting culture that encourages a respectful work environment free of inappropriate sexual or other conduct.”
NBC should also institute a prompt reporting system where employees can voice their concerns “without fear of retaliation” and see them addressed promptly, the report said.
After the investigation was released, NBC News president Andy Lack wrote in a memo to staff that employees can now report these issues to both employee counselors and outside counsel.
The network will also improve its training mechanisms and make “respectful behavior” a part of performance evaluations.
“Like many of you, I am immensely proud of NBC News, its history and the work we do,” Lack wrote. “But that history also includes a time when people were not comfortable coming forward to voice complaints about repugnant behavior. That is not acceptable.”
Lack encouraged employees to learn from the past and work to transform company culture.
“It takes all 2,145 of us together, having each other’s backs, to make this goal a reality that starts now,” he wrote.