Former “Today” anchor Matt Lauer addressed a growing spate of allegations that he harassed and assaulted women during his tenure at the NBC morning institution, apologizing for his actions and vowing to fix the damage he caused.
“There are no words to express my sorrow and regret for the pain I have caused others by words and actions. To the people I have hurt, I am truly sorry. As I am writing this I realize the depth of the damage and disappointment I have left behind at home and at NBC. Some of what is being said about me is untrue or mischaracterized, but there is enough truth in these stories to make me feel embarrassed and ashamed. I regret that my shame is now shared by the people I cherish dearly,” Lauer said in a statement that was released by a personal publicist and formed the bulk of the top story on “Today” Thursday morning. “Repairing the damage will take a lot of time and soul searching and I’m committed to beginning that effort. It is now my full time job. The last two days have forced me to take a very hard look at my own troubling flaws. It’s been humbling. I am blessed to be surrounded by the people I love. I thank them for their patience and grace.”
Lauer’s actions, disclosed in a Variety investigation that reported the accounts of current and former NBC News staffers as well as three women who identified themselves as victims of sexual harassment by the anchor, formed the lead story on the Thursday broadcast of “Today,” the show he called home for more than two decades. NBC News confirmed that more women had come forward to make allegations about Lauer’s behavior since management received word from a woman earlier this week. NBC News decided within a day of hearing those first complaints to terminate Lauer from his job, where he has greeted several generations of morning-news viewers.
Lauer is the latest prominent person to fall as the nation places more emphasis on the injustice of acts of sexual harassment by prominent public figures, including movie mogul Harvey Weinstein and former Fox News Channel anchor Bill O’Reilly. NBC had in 2016 quietly negotiated a new deal with Lauer, said to be valued at around $20 million, that would have kept him on the air through 2018.
“Today” viewers tuning into the program Thursday morning saw the same team that yesterday delivered the shocking news about their former colleague. Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb informed viewers that the show’s lead story would be about the show and Lauer for the second day in a row.
Lauer’s dismissal raises questions about next steps at “Today.” Many viewers have not known the program without his presence on it.
The morning show has been locked in a scorched-earth battle with ABC’s “Good Morning America” since April 9, 2012, when the ABC program ended “Today’s” 852-week streak as the nation’s most-watched morning-news program. Ratings for “Today”suffered as NBC ousted Ann Curry, who had taken over as co-anchor from Meredith Vieira. The chemistry between Curry and Lauer fizzled and her teary on-air departure, in tandem with a growing focus on tabloid-ier stories soured viewers on the program.
Since that time, “Today” has gained some ground on its rival. While “GMA” remains the nation’s most-watched morning program, “Today” is the most-watched among viewers between 25 and 54 – the demographic most coveted by advertisers in news programming. If that standing were to deteriorate, NBCUniversal would stand to lose some of the more than $500 million in ad revenue the first two hours of the show generate each year.