What You Never Knew About Matt Lauer

For over two decades, Matt Lauer's was the first face many Americans saw every morning. The longtime "Today" host was such a steady and prominent presence that, for many viewers, he became nearly synonymous with the show. According to Britannica, Lauer became a regular news anchor on "Today" in 1994 and served as co-host from 1997 until his firing in 2017. During this time, he interviewed numerous high-profile politicians and celebrities while gaining a reputation as a dependable and agreeable virtual breakfast companion for the show's many regular viewers.

But, when viewers tuned in to "Today" (via Twitter) on November 29, 2017, they were greeted by a shock. Not only was Lauer absent, but his co-hosts, Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb, had disturbing news to announce: Lauer had been fired for "inappropriate sexual behavior" toward an NBC colleague. His shocking and sudden fall from grace sparked serious discussion about sexual harassment in the workplace and its consequences — and put an abrupt and ignoble end to what had been a golden career.

It took Matt Lauer 18 years to get his college degree

Matt Lauer's educational journey started out pretty normally. After graduating from high school in 1975, he set his sights on a career in journalism and enrolled in the Scripps College of Communications and School of Media Arts at Ohio University, according to Britannica.

Lauer's academic career seemed to progress at a normal pace. But, by the spring of 1979, he was just four credits short of graduation (according to Ohio University Today, the class he needed for graduation wasn't offered that semester) when an opportunity arose that he couldn't turn down: an internship at a TV station in West Virginia. There, he thrived, soon becoming an on-air reporter and producer before moving on to bigger and better opportunities at other stations. As his star rose, Lauer's need for a degree receded further into his rearview mirror. 

Still, he ultimately managed to finish what he started, earning his degree in telecommunications from Ohio University in 1997 — and also serving as that year's commencement speaker. "It's tough for me to sit here today with what's happened and say I regret it [not finishing his degree]," Lauer told Ohio University Today. "But I think there should be some closure. I think there should be a push to finish something you started."

Journalism was his life — until it wasn't

Many people need to explore multiple paths before finding their life's calling. Matt Lauer wasn't one of them. In 1980, only a year out of college, he became the host of "PM Magazine," a nationally-syndicated news and entertainment show, according to Britannica. He continued to host "PM Magazine" until 1986.

Lauer had already made admirable progress as a young broadcaster. But it was his decision to move to New York City in 1989 that set him up for national stardom. "It just seemed that once I left OU, it was almost like a steamroller started, and then it was difficult to stop that steamroller," he told Ohio University Today. He took on-air positions with several local shows, including "9 Broadway Plaza," "Today in New York," and "Live at Five." 

His work on the latter two shows, which aired on New York's NBC affiliate WNBC, caught the eye of the network's national news team, and Lauer soon made his debut on "Today" as a substitute newsreader and co-anchor. Besides rising to his longtime position as co-host on "Today," he covered the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver for NBC as well as the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, according to TV Guide. As People noted, his time in Sochi would play a pivotal role in the scandal that would end his career.

Matt Lauer nearly became a tree trimmer

While Matt Lauer had always aimed for a career in television — and ultimately succeeded in reaching the top ranks of his profession — his trajectory was not without its rough spots. In 1991, he was fired from his position as host of an interview show in New York, according to Ohio University Today, and, in the year to come, only managed to pick up part-time work with HBO. Working only two days a week was neither satisfying nor financially sustainable, and Lauer knew something had to change. 

One day, in desperation, he called the "help wanted" number on the back of a tree-trimming truck. "I called the number when I got home and left a message on a machine with my name and number," Lauer told Ohio University Today. He waited by the phone for their response. But when the phone rang a few hours later, it was not the tree trimmer, but a representative from WNBC — and this set him on the path that ultimately led him to "Today."

Matt Lauer's Today colleagues learned of his termination just hours before the day's show

When the allegations against Matt Lauer came to light, NBC moved quickly. As People reported, attorneys for an NBC employee filed a formal complaint against Lauer on the evening of Monday, November 27, 2017. The next day, after a brief internal investigation, NBC decided to fire him — and informed Lauer that evening.

But it wasn't until the morning of November 29 that his former "Today" colleagues got the news. In NBC's archived clip of that day's show, co-hosts Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb broke the news of Lauer's firing, looking just as shocked and shaken as their audience. "We just learned this moments ago, just this morning," Guthrie said, appearing to hold back tears. "As you can imagine, we are just devastated." She then posed the question many of Lauer's friends and colleagues would "grapple with" in the days and weeks to come: "How do you reconcile your love for someone with the revelation that they have behaved badly? I don't know the answer to that."

His firing from NBC was just the start of Matt Lauer's troubles

Matt Lauer's sudden fall from grace didn't end with his firing. In his memo to staff announcing Lauer's dismissal, NBC News Chairman Andrew Lack wrote (via CNBC) that Lauer was fired because of a "detailed complaint from a colleague about inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace." He added, however, that "we were also presented with reason to believe this may not have been an isolated incident."

Disturbing revelations from other women in the days to come appeared to confirm Lack's suspicions. An investigation from Variety revealed that several other women employed by NBC asserted that Lauer had made inappropriate advances toward them, which included giving one a sex toy with "an explicit note." The women, who asked to stay anonymous, told Variety that they had complained to higher-ups at NBC about Lauer's behavior but were ignored. It was only in light of the latest, most serious allegations — coming in the wake of the #MeToo movement— that his earlier accusers were taken seriously.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Matt Lauer's ex-wife supported him in wake of his termination

In the days following Matt Lauer's firing, he found an unlikely champion and defender: his ex-wife, Nancy Alspaugh, to whom Lauer was married from 1981 to 1988, according to Entertainment Tonight. "I never saw him as a power monger or somebody who would abuse his position in any way," Alspaugh told the outlet shortly after his firing was announced.

Alspaugh remained on friendly terms with Lauer after their divorce, even befriending his second wife and their children. She told Entertainment Tonight that, before Lauer's firing, she called Lauer to warn him about a reporter who had contacted her with questions about the allegations. "He thanked me for the call," she said, "and he said of course none of it was true." Her endorsement of her ex-husband's character was unambiguous. "I want to get out the fact that he made a contribution to my nonprofit, that he helped me when my husband died," she told the outlet. "He would give you the shirt off his back if you really needed it. He did that for everybody."

A bombshell book revealed even more serious allegations against Matt Lauer

When the allegations against Matt Lauer first came to light, his accuser chose to remain anonymous. In addition, NBC was vague about the nature of the allegations, only saying they involved inappropriate sexual behavior and were serious enough to merit Lauer's dismissal, according to People. But, naturally, both investigative reporters and the public were curious to learn more.

In time, more details emerged and cast Lauer in an even more damning light. As Variety reported, nearly two years after Lauer's firing, Ronan Farrow's book "Catch and Kill" was released, revealing not only Lauer's accuser's identity (with her permission), but also her claim that he had raped her in his hotel room during the Sochi Olympics, where both were covering the Games for NBC. Lauer vigorously denied the allegations. "In a new book, it is alleged that an extramarital, but consensual, sexual encounter I have previously admitted having, was in fact an assault. It is categorically false, ignores the facts, and defies common sense," he said, through his attorneys, in an open letter to Variety.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Matt Lauer admitted a history of infidelity

While Matt Lauer consistently denied the allegations against him, he was forced to admit one undeniable and ugly truth: He had been unfaithful. According to People, Lauer's infidelity was an open secret at NBC. "Everyone on staff knew he cheated regularly on his wife," a source told People. It's probably no coincidence that his marriage (to former model Annette Roque) was rumored to be rocky. But, while Roque filed for divorce in 2006, she later backed out, and, in 2010, she and Lauer jointly denied they were separating, according to People.

While Lauer's affairs were well known, the allegations of sexual misconduct against him still came as a shock to his former colleagues. As one NBC staffer told People, "He regularly cheated on his wife. Everyone knew. His wife lives in the Hamptons and he lives in the city, but we never heard he made unwanted moves." Another former "Today" team member concurred. "That [his infidelity] wasn't a secret, but sexual [misconduct] is a shock," the former "Today" staff member told People. "He was friendly and approachable with everyone, and was very well-liked." 

Still, Lauer knew some of his behavior toward women caused a world of hurt. "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," he said in a written statement to NBC read on air by his former "Today" colleagues (via Twitter).

He regretted staying silent when accused of sexual misconduct

In the days following his firing, Matt Lauer kept to himself. While he issued a written public apology to his former colleagues at NBC for "the pain I have caused others by words and actions," according to the The Hollywood Reporter, he choose to stay silent as more detailed accusations against him were revealed in order to protect his children. "Despite my desire to set the record straight and confront the individuals making false allegations, I wanted nothing less than to create more headlines my kids would read," he said in a written statement two years after his firing.

In the same statement, however, he added that his initial silence had been a mistake. "Today, nearly two years after I was fired by NBC, old stories are being recycled, titillating details are being added, and a dangerous and defamatory new allegation is being made," he wrote. "It is now with their [his children's] full support I say 'enough.'"

Matt Lauer and his second wife divorced after 20 years of marriage

Despite his open infidelity, Matt Lauer was willing to fight to save his marriage to Annette Roque, according to People. "He doesn't want a divorce. Both of them, their first thought is their children," a source told the outlet. But the aftermath of his firing and the growing list of allegations of sexual misconduct dealt a fatal blow to their already-wounded relationship. Shortly after Lauer's firing, the couple had stopped wearing their wedding rings and separated shortly after. Their divorce was finalized in September 2019.

But, as People noted, the couple's relationship — which started with a blind date — had never been easy. A former colleague of Lauer's told the publication that their marriage "was never good" and that Roque knew of — and disapproved of — Lauer's serial philandering even before they were married. And Lauer, himself, admitted there had been problems, even as he tried to play them down. "Have we had a completely perfect, easy marriage? No. But the stories you've read over the years are not true," he told People. "I don't think we're any different than any married couple that's been together for 12 years." As of 2021, however, Lauer has a new girlfriend, a former acquaintance of his.

Even without his Today gig, Matt Lauer is still well off

When Matt Lauer was fired from "Today," he lost more than just a high-profile job and a golden reputation — he also lost a huge paycheck. According to The Hollywood Reporter, he had signed a two-year contract for $20 million with the network in 2016, and, according to Celebrity Net Worth, was at one point the highest-paid person on television. At the peak of his career, Celebrity Net Worth estimates that Lauer's net worth was between $120 and $150 million.

But the scandal that ended his career also hit him in his wallet. Retreating from public life — and, likely, from sad memories — he sold his Manhattan apartment for $8 million, according to the Observer. (As Page Six noted, this was where Lauer stayed during the week while taping "Today" — and where NBC News Chairman Andy Lack visited him in person to tell him he'd been fired.) His long-rocky marriage ended in 2019, with Lauer paying his former wife, Annette Roque, a $20 million divorce settlement and giving her one of their properties, a small horse farm in the Hamptons, according to Town & Country

But, despite the financial and personal turmoil in his life, Lauer is still living pretty comfortably: Celebrity Net Worth lists his current net worth as $80 million.

Matt Lauer and his second ex-wife remain committed to co-parenting their three children

Despite the turmoil in his domestic life, according to Closer Weekly, Matt Lauer has remained fiercely dedicated to his children: Jack (born in 2001), Romy (born in 2003), and Thijs (born in 2006). In a Facebook chat shared by Today in 2015, he revealed that his kids keep him grounded. "To be honest, I'm not famous at home," Lauer said. "I'm just Papa." And, like many parents, he finds work-life balance a challenge. "There are times when the schedule of this job interferes with things I want to be a part of at home," he said, adding, "I have understanding bosses who let me take time for family events when I need it."

His children have also experienced all the ups and downs of their father's career. While he was on "Today," Lauer's children sometimes tagged along on days when one of their favorite artists was performing. "I was a very popular dad when Ariana Grande was on the show," he said in the Facebook chat. And, sadly, they also had to live with the blow from Lauer's firing and their parents' subsequent separation and divorce, according to Us Weekly. Luckily, both parents remained united in their support of their kids: Entertainment Tonight reported that Lauer and his ex were seen together cheering their daughter on at a horse show, and Lauer has even appeared in his daughter's TikTok videos.