Repairing damage after sex claims is my full-time job, says NBC's Matt Lauer

Repairing damage after sex claims is my full-time job, says NBC's Matt Lauer
File photo of Matt Lauer. Picture: AP Photo/Richard Drew

Former US TV host Matt Lauer, fired by NBC News for sexual misconduct, has said repairing the damage he has caused is now his full-time job.

Lauer's first public response to his sacking was read by his former Today co-host, Savannah Guthrie, on the show where he had worked since 1994 before being dismissed on Tuesday night. His downfall was the broadcast's lead story.

"I regret that my shame is now shared by the people I cherish dearly," he said in the statement. "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."

He was fired after an NBC employee came forward on Monday to detail what NBC News chief Andrew Lack described as Lauer's "inappropriate sexual behaviour" which began at the Sochi Olympics in 2014.

Since then, NBC said two other women have come forward with complaints, with one telling the New York Times that Lauer sexually assaulted her in his office in 2001.

An investigation by Variety magazine revealed a pattern of alleged salacious behaviour, including three women who said they had been sexually harassed by Lauer.

Lauer said some of what has been said about him is untrue or mischaracterised, "but there is enough truth in these stories to make me feel embarrassed and ashamed". He did not specify which allegations were true or untrue.

"The last two days have forced me to take a very hard look at my own troubling flaws," he said. "It's been humbling."

For the second day in a row, he was replaced by Hoda Kotb on Today, giving the show an all-female lead anchor team.

NBC is faced with the task of suddenly replacing the man who has been the most visible figure in morning television news, the most lucrative part of the network news business. CBS has the same task, since CBS This Morning host Charlie Rose was fired last week for after several women he worked with detailed sexual misconduct charges.

The list of prominent men felled by misconduct allegations has seemed to grow by the day, especially since a pattern of sexual assault by Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein was revealed this fall.

In the media alone, Lauer joins a list that also includes his former NBC News colleague Mark Halperin, late Fox News chief Roger Ailes, Fox News prime-time host Bill O'Reilly and National Public Radio newsroom chief Michael Oreskes.

On Wednesday, former "Prairie Home Companion" host Garrison Keillor was let go by Minnesota Public Radio over an allegation of "inappropriate behaviour".

In the wave of accusations sweeping through the media, Hollywood and politics, the stature and wealth that once served as protection have turned into flimsy shields. Lauer's downfall was stunningly swift.

Mr Lack said it was the first complaint lodged against Lauer in his 20 years at NBC, but "we were also presented with reason to believe this may not have been an isolated incident".

After the new reports emerged, NBC stressed that it was the first time its current news management had heard of the complaints.

Hours after Lauer was fired, trade publication Variety posted what it said was a two-month investigation that included dozens of interviews with current and former employees who asked to remain anonymous.

Among other things, Variety reported allegations that Lauer once gave a colleague a sex toy with an explicit note about how he wanted to use it on her; that he exposed himself to another female colleague; that he would question female producers about their sex lives; and that he would talk about which co-hosts he would like to sleep with.

Messages to Lauer and his agent were not immediately returned, and NBC would not say whether he denied or admitted to any wrongdoing.

Lauer is married with three children. His statement on Thursday mentioned the damage he had left behind "at NBC and at home".

His Where In The World Is Matt Lauer? segments were popular for years, and he regularly played a lead role at the Olympics and other major news events. He had been assigned as one of the hosts for the Christmas tree lighting ceremony from the Rockefeller Centre that NBC televised on Wednesday night.

For many years, Today was the unquestioned ratings leader, until it was eclipsed by ABC's Good Morning America following the ugly 2012 firing of Lauer's co-host, Ann Curry. The show had stabilised in recent years with Lauer's pairing with Guthrie.

Regarding Keillor, Minnesota Public Radio gave no details about his firing, but the 75-year-old said he had put his hand on a woman's back to console her and inadvertently touched her bare skin through an opening in her shirt.

In an email to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Keillor said he apologised to the woman, she told him she forgave him and the two remained friends "right up until her lawyer called".

Minnesota Public Radio said it will end distribution of the radio programme The Writer's Almanac, Keillor's daily reading of a poem and telling of literary events, and end rebroadcasts of old Prairie Home Companion episodes.

- AP

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