How Much Did NBC Know About The Matt Lauer Accusations?

Trigger warning: The following article contains details of sexual assault, rape, and harassment in the workplace.

Working inside NBC during Matt Lauer's tenure was allegedly hostile, especially for women. Former producers told Variety that "they were conflicted about what to do about Lauer. They worried that their careers would be sidelined if they didn't return his advances." Not only did they allegedly have to endure Lauer's unwanted comments and advances, but if they did come forward, their complaints went nowhere.

Suddenly, in November 2017, "The Today Show" announced that Matt Lauer had been fired overnight (via The New York Times). At the time, the story was boiled down to one complaint being made by one NBC employee. The complaint — the details of which didn't come out until 2019—  detailed misconduct that happened at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi (via NPR). And how bad was the misconduct? In a statement NBC News made, they said: "Matt Lauer's conduct was appalling, horrific and reprehensible, as we said at the time. That's why he was fired within 24 hours of us first learning of the complaint" (via Variety)

However, the Sochi Olympics was not the only time that Lauer allegedly had acted inappropriately with subordinates.

Accusations against Matt Lauer went back years

The same day the news about Matt Lauer's firing broke, Variety published an exposé that was "the result of a two-month investigation" in which they'd interviewed dozens of "current and former staffers" who had a lot to say. They explained how, for Lauer, it seemed like "work and sex were intertwined." One former producer described how it appeared Lauer used work as his dating pool, since not only did he have a high profile, but he was also married.

News about Lauer died down until Ronan Farrow's book, "Catch and Kill," was published in October 2019 (via NPR). In it, Farrow goes into his investigation of not just Harvey Weinstein, but also Matt Lauer. For the first time, details about why Lauer was fired finally came out and his accuser was named. So, what was his "appalling, horrific and reprehensible" conduct? Lauer had allegedly raped NBC employee (and assistant to his co-star Merdedith Vieira) Brooke Nevils.

In his book, Farrow reports Nevils' account of the incident and the affair with Lauer that followed. Once the affair was finished, though, Nevils didn't keep it to herself. "She told colleagues and superiors at NBC," Farrow writes. Even after Nevils moved from "The Today Show" to NBC's Peacock Productions, she continued telling people — including one of her new bosses.

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).

Brooke Nevils wasn't Matt Lauer's only alleged victim

It wasn't until a few years later, with the fall of Harvey Weinstein and the rise of the #MeToo era, that Brooke Nevils went to someone who held as much power as Matt Lauer. After opening up to Meredith Vieira about what happened with Lauer, Nevils told Ronan Farrow that Vieira "urged her to go to NBC Universal human resources with a lawyer" (via Variety). That's when Lauer was finally fired. In a statement, NBC News Chairman Andy Lack claimed that they had been "presented with reason to believe that this may not have been an isolated incident" (via The Washington Post). And it wasn't. Many NBC staffers had issues with Matt Lauer's conduct over the years.

Variety reports that he "would invite women employed by NBC late at night to his hotel room while covering the Olympics in various cities over the years." His behavior wasn't reserved just for the out-of-town trips either. Lauer once "gave a colleague a sex toy as a present" with "an explicit note about how he wanted to use it on her."

Yet, NBC did nothing. According to Variety, complaints were made to executives about Lauer's behavior but they "fell on deaf ears given the lucrative advertising surrounding 'Today.'" Ronan Farrow, too, discovered evidence of accusations being shoved aside. During an interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulus, Farrow explains that "there were multiple secret settlements and nondisclosures being struck with women at NBC News" (via ABC News).

NBC had allegedly known about Matt Lauer for years before he was fired

The official statement from Matt Lauer's lawyer reads: "In 25 years at NBC, Matt Lauer did not have a single complaint brought to his attention until November 28, 2017" (via Refinery29). NBC, too, made a statement following the internal investigation: "We found no evidence indicating that any NBC News or 'Today' show leadership, News H.R. or others in positions of authority in the News Division received any complaints about Lauer's workplace behavior prior to Nov. 27, 2017" (via The New York Times).

However, Ronan Farrow reports he has discovered the opposite. "There were seven non-disclosure agreements," Farrow explained to George Stephanopoulus in his ABC News interview. "Multiple ones of those were with Matt Lauer accusers. This is years before this incident with Brooke Nevils and the firing."

Farrow claims that there was actually a period of "six to seven years, a period in which NBC had previously denied any settlements" that coincided with the non-disclosure agreements he discovered. In "Catch and Kill," Farrow writes that "NBC even had a corporate euphemism for its settlements — 'enhanced severance' — that enabled it to plausibly deny that the payments were hush money" (via The Washington Post). Not only did NBC allegedly know about Matt Lauer's conduct, but they chose to cover it up for years.