NEW YORK (AP) – NBC News fired longtime “Today” show host Matt Lauer on Wednesday for “inappropriate sexual behavior,” making him the second morning television show personality to lose his job because of sexual misconduct charges in a week.
Lauer’s co-host Savannah Guthrie made the announcement at the top of Wednesday’s “Today” show. Last week, CBS News fired Charlie Rose after complaints from several women who worked for him.
NBC News Chairman Andrew Lack said the network had received a complaint from a colleague on Monday night, and a review determined it was a clear violation of company standards. While it was the first complaint lodged against Lauer, Lack said in a memo to staff that “we were also presented with reason to believe this may not have been an isolated incident.”
Lauer, 59, has hosted “Today” for two decades. When paired with Katie Couric, “Today” was the longtime ratings leader and was highly lucrative for NBC. It now runs second in the ratings to ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
Many “Today” show viewers took out their anger for the unsightly 2012 firing of co-host Ann Curry on Lauer, sending the show plunging in the ratings. But NBC stuck with Lauer and the show had steadied with his pairing with Guthrie. The show runs for four hours, with Lauer and Guthrie hosting the first two.
He joins a lengthening list of media figures felled by sexual misconduct charges this year. Besides Rose, they include Lauer’s former NBC News colleague Mark Halperin, former Fox News prime-time host Bill O’Reilly and National Public Radio newsroom chief Michael Oreskes. The New York Times suspended White House correspondent Glenn Thrush last week.
Messages to Lauer and his agent were not immediately returned.
Lack, in his memo, said that “we are deeply saddened by this turn of events. But we will face it together as a news organization – and do it in as transparent a manner as we can.” There were reports that, before the firing, some media organizations were looking into Lauer’s behavior. The morning host is married with three children.
Guthrie co-hosted Wednesday’s show with Hoda Kotb, who said both of them were awakened with the news Wednesday morning. Guthrie appeared to fight back tears as she called Lauer her friend who is beloved by many at NBC, and said she was “heartbroken for my colleague who came forward to tell her story and any other women who have their own stories to tell.
“We are grappling with a dilemma that so many people have faced these past few weeks,” she said. “How do you reconcile your love for someone with the revelation that they have behaved badly? I don’t know the answer to that. But I do know that this reckoning that so many organizations have been going through is important, it’s long overdue and it must result in workplaces where all women, all people, feel safe and respected.”
On Twitter Wednesday, President Donald Trump said “Wow, Matt Lauer was just fired from NBC for ‘inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace.’ But when will the top executives at NBC & Comcast be fired for putting out so much Fake News.”
Associated Press writer Patrick Mairs in Philadelphia contributed to this report.