NBC News Chief Andy Lack addressed the new rape allegations against disgraced Today show anchor Matt Lauer — made by former employee Brooke Nevils — in a letter to the staff obtained by Us Weekly on Wednesday, October 9.
“This morning, reporting around Ronan Farrow’s new book revealed deeply disturbing details related to the incident that led to Matt Lauer’s termination from NBC. I want to take a moment to communicate with you about this. First, and most importantly, in reading today’s news our hearts go out to our former colleague,” Lack began. “Matt Lauer’s conduct in 2014 was appalling and reprehensible – and of course we said so at the time. The first moment we learned of it was the night of November 27, 2017, and he was fired in 24 hours. Any suggestion that we knew prior to that evening or tried to cover up any aspect of Lauer’s conduct is absolutely false and offensive.”
Lauer was fired from NBC News in November 2017 amid several allegations against him. Lack went on to address why the term “sexual misconduct” was used to “describe the reason for Lauer’s firing in the days following” instead of assault or rape.
“We chose those words carefully to precisely mirror the public words at that time of the attorney representing our former NBC colleague,” the memo stated. “In the past two years we have taken significant steps to improve our culture and ensure we have a workplace where everyone feels safe and respected, as well as protected in raising claims. Since then, we’ve required all NBC News employees to complete in-person workplace behavior trainings and we’ve significantly increased awareness of the ways employees can report concerns – anonymously or otherwise.”
Current Today show hosts Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb spoke out about the allegations made in Farrow’s upcoming book, Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies and Conspiracy to Protect Predators, during Wednesday’s broadcast.
“I know it wasn’t easy for our colleague Brooke to come forward then, it’s not easy now, and we support her and any women who have come forward with claims. It’s just very painful for all of us at NBC and at the Today show,” Guthrie admitted. “It’s very, very, very difficult.”
Kotb echoed her co-anchor’s thoughts.
“You feel like you’ve known someone for 12 years … and then all of a sudden, a door opens up and it’s a part of them you didn’t know,” the Today with Hoda & Jenna cohost said. “We don’t know all the facts in all of this, but they’re not allegations of an affair; they’re allegations of a crime. I think that’s shocking to all of us here who’ve sat with Matt for many, many years. So, I think we’re gonna just continue to process this part of this horrific story. And, as [Savannah] said, our thoughts are with Brooke. It’s not easy what she did to come forward.”
Lauer, for his part, claimed his encounter with Nevils, who was the assistant of former Today co-host Meredith Vieira at the time, was consensual.
“It began when she came to my hotel room very late one night in Sochi, Russia,” Lauer wrote in letter obtained by Us, referring to the 2014 Winter Olympics. “We engaged in a variety of sexual acts. We performed oral sex on each other, we had vaginal sex, and we had anal sex. Each act was mutual and completely consensual.”
Nevils, however, told Farrow in the book, which will be released on Tuesday, October 15, that she was “too drunk” to consent: “It was nonconsensual in that I said, multiple times, that I didn’t want to have anal sex.”
In the letter to the NBC staff, Lack also addressed Farrow’s allegations about how the network handled his investigation into disgraced movie producer Harvey Weinstein, who was fired from his own company in 2017 after multiple women came forward with claims of sexual assault, which Weinstein has denied.
“NBC News assigned the Harvey Weinstein story to Ronan, we completely supported it over many months with resources – both financial and editorial,” Lack wrote. “After seven months, without one victim or witness on the record, he simply didn’t have a story that met our standard for broadcast nor that of any major news organization. Not willing to accept that standard and not wanting to get beaten by the New York Times, he asked to take his story to an outlet he claimed was ready to publish right away. Reluctantly, we allowed him to go ahead. Fifty-three days later, and five days after the New York Times did indeed break the story, he published an article at the New Yorker that bore little resemblance to the reporting he had while at NBC News.”
Lack concluded: “Let me remind you of who we really are. Our journalists have been at the forefront of blockbuster investigations into sexual harassment and abuse on many stories – many pre-dating Weinstein – including USA Gymnastics, Silicon Valley, Bill Cosby, Jeffrey Epstein, and more. To get across the finish line on big stories like these takes exceptional work, collaboration, patience, and a commitment to a set of standards and practices that ultimately lends our work great credibility.”
If you or anyone you know has been sexually assaulted, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673). A trained staff member will provide confidential, judgment-free support as well as local resources to assist in healing, recovering and more.
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