According to NBC sources who talked to Vanity Fair on Monday, disgraced former Today show host Matt Lauer fought against the network’s recent decision to fire the morning show’s longtime booker Matt Zimmerman over sexual harassment allegations. Zimmerman’s firing came only week’s before Lauer himself was terminated by NBC following similar accusations.
“The two men were close, the former colleague told me, and Lauer fought for Zimmerman to stay,” the Vanity Fair piece noted. Reporter Sarah Ellison further explained: “Lauer had been dogged by stories of infidelity for years, so much so that he had become a regular target of the tabloid press. That focus narrowed his world, according to a former colleague.”
The article went on to detail the common targets of Lauer’s harassment: “There were, according to the former colleague, two groups of women that Lauer seemed to focus his attention on: interns, pages, and production assistants in charge of running scripts in the morning; and also bookers.”
On Tuesday, Lauer put out a statement responding to the scandal, reading in part:
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.
In addition, NBC News also put out a new statement denying any knowledge of Lauer’s actions:
We can say unequivocally that prior to Monday night, current NBC News management was never made aware of any complaints about Matt Lauer’s conduct.
That was in response to Variety reporting that “several women” who had accused Lauer of wrongdoing found their complaints “fell on deaf ears” when they reported the harassment to network executives.
Vanity Fair similarly highlighted NBC employees who claimed that Lauer’s inappropriate behavior was well-known at the media company:
“The real focus right now should be on this complete disingenuous behavior by NBC to say, ‘I’m shocked,’” one former NBC colleague told me. Lauer has been prized and protected by a succession of NBC News presidents....“I don’t know what everyone is so surprised by,” said one high-level industry source. “This has been going on for months and months and everybody knew it and it was just going to be which girl came forward, and who reported it first.”