Just hours after NBC News fired Matt Lauer for “inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace,” Variety published a bombshell report, detailing the allegations of multiple women who had worked with the now-former Today show co-anchor.
The report, the result of a two-month investigation including dozens of interviews with current and former NBC News staffers, claims that Lauer had sexually harassed a number of his female colleagues. His alleged behavior included gifting sex toys with explicit notes, summoning a woman to his office and dropping his pants to show her his penis (and then reprimanding her for not performing a sexual act on him), quizzing women about who they had slept with, asking women to deliver pillows to his hotel room, and playing an office game called “fuck, marry or kill,” in which, as Variety tells it, “he would identify the female co-hosts that he’d most like to sleep with.”
But the real jaw-dropper: Lauer allegedly had a button underneath his desk allowing him to automatically lock the door to his office. That office, Variety’s Ramin Setoodeh notes, “was in a secluded space,” and the remote-lock mechanism “afforded him the assurance of privacy. It allowed him to welcome female employees and initiate inappropriate contact while knowing nobody could walk in on him, according to two women who were sexually harassed by Lauer.” (The report did not include a response from Lauer, whom Variety said could not be reached.)
Betsy Fischer Martin, a former executive producer for NBC’s Meet the Press, noted via Twitter that several NBC executives have such automatic-lock buttons under their desks at NBC News’s Rockefeller Center headquarters:
“As strange as it sounds in print” is an understatement, to be sure. That any executive has the ability to lock people in their offices without them knowing is uncommon. That Lauer allegedly abused this power to lock women in his office as if they were prey is beyond remarkable.
Also worth noting from Variety’s article: according to the entertainment-industry publication’s report, plenty of NBC News employees and authorities knew about Lauer’s alleged behavior, and did nothing to stop it. (We’ve reached out to NBC for a comment.)
One former NBC producer claiming to have knowledge of the alleged encounters told Variety that “[t] here were a lot of consensual relationships, but that’s still a problem because of the power he held. He couldn’t sleep around town with celebrities or on the road with random people, because he’s Matt Lauer and he’s married. So he’d have to do it within his stable, where he exerted power, and he knew people wouldn’t ever complain.”
This description sounds a lot like a statement we’ve heard before: “When you’re a star they let you do it,” said Donald Trump, now president of the United States, bragging in 2005 about his ability to grab women “by the pussy” and kiss them without consent. “You can do anything.”