NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — In his first public comments since being fired by NBC over sexual misconduct allegations, Matt Lauer says he is “truly sorry” to anyone he has hurt, but said some of the reports about him are “untrue or mischaracterized.”
As CBS2’s Alice Gainer reported, Lauer’s former co-host Savannah Guthrie read a statement from Lauer at the top of Thursday’s “Today” show.
“There are no words to express my sorrow and regret for the pain I have caused others by words and actions,” the statement said. “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. I regret that my shame is now shared by the people I cherish dearly. 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.”
Lauer added that the last two days “have forced me to take a very hard look at my own troubling flaws.”
“It’s been humbling,” he said. “I am blessed to be surrounded by the people I love. I thank them for their patience and grace.”
Lauer’s firing on Wednesday for what NBC called “inappropriate sexual behavior” with a colleague was quickly followed by a published report accusing him of crude and habitual misconduct with other women around the office.
Network news chief Andrew Lack said in a memo to the staff that NBC received a complaint about Lauer’s behavior on Monday and determined he violated company standards. NBC said the misconduct started when Lauer and a network employee were at the Sochi Olympics in 2014 and continued beyond that assignment.
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.”
Lack, in his memo, said, “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.”
Earlier Wednesday, it was left to Lauer’s shaken “Today” colleagues, Guthrie and Hoda Kotb, to break the news to viewers at the top of the morning’s show. They regrouped and joined Al Roker to emcee NBC’s “Christmas in Rockefeller Center” special Wednesday night, which Lauer was to have co-hosted.
Ari Wilkenfeld, the attorney for Lauer’s accuser, praised NBC for acting “quickly and responsibly” in response to the morning host’s “egregious acts of sexual harassment and misconduct.” The lawyer did not identify his client.
NBC News received two new complaints against Lauer on Wednesday, “NBC Nightly News” reported.
Others are sharing their stories in the media, with one former NBC employee telling The New York Times of an encounter in 2001 when Lauer allegedly summoned her to his office, locked the door and then sexually assaulted her. She says she passed out and woke up on the floor of his office with her pants down and had to be taken to a nurse.
“This is as big as it gets,” said Times columnist Jim Rutenberg. “It’s the biggest scalp in terms of this national reckoning over alleged and in some cases admitted sexual misconduct.”
Hours after Lauer’s firing, Variety magazine reported on what it said was a two-month investigation that included dozens of interviews with current and former staffers 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. He also allegedly “summoned a different female employee to his office and then dropped his pants” and “reprimanded her for not engaging in a sexual act.”
“According to our sources, it wasn’t just low-level employees that had knowledge of Matt Lauer’s inappropriate conduct with women,” said Variety New York Bureau Chief Ramin Setoodeh. “There were also higher-level employees that were aware and openly speaking about Matt Lauer’s conduct with other women at the ‘Today’ show.”
“All of them had sort of related the fact that he had a button under his desk that enabled him to lock his office door without ever getting up and I think that created an environment for these women where they really felt unsafe being alone with him,” said Variety Executive Editor Debra Birnbaum. “I think you can understand why the women felt they couldn’t come forward without repercussions for their career.”
NBC News responded to the Variety report with a statement saying, “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.”
Outside of the “Today” show Thursday, fans weighed in.
“I’m glad he apologized at least and took responsibility for his actions,” fan Elise Lieberman told CBS2’s Janelle Burrell. “A
“Oh, how the mighty have fallen,” said another.
Lauer is married to a former Victoria’s Secret model and has three children, ages 11 to 16.
Lauer became the second morning host in a week to lose his job over sexual misconduct allegations. CBS fired Charlie Rose after several women who worked for him complained about his alleged behavior.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)