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Nearly four years after former Today show host Matt Lauer was ousted for what NBC News chairman Andy Lack called "inappropriate sexual behavior," the former anchor is back in the spotlight again. This time, the attention comes as Lauer's former co-anchor, Katie Couric, speaks out ahead of the publication of her new memoir Going There, which reveals, among other details of her career, how she felt in the wake of the allegations against Lauer and how their relationship "devolved and ultimately deteriorated."
In an interview with current Today host Savannah Guthrie, Couric said that the scandal took a "long time to process," adding "As I got more information and learned what was going on behind the scenes, it was really upsetting and disturbing. It was really devastating, but also disgusting."
"I think what I realized is that there was a side of Matt I never really knew," she revealed, "and I tried to understand why he behaved the way he he did, and why he was so reckless and callous, and honestly abusive to other women.”
Couric also explained that she and Lauer, who helmed the morning show together for more than a decade, now "have no relationship."
Within the book itself, which reportedly includes text messages between Couric and Lauer from the time of the allegations, Couric writes "I know Matt thinks I betrayed him, and that makes me sad. But he betrayed me, too, by how he behaved behind closed doors at the show we both cared about so much."
Read on for more about what Lauer has been doing lately.
Laying Low After 'Today'
According to reports from Page Six, Lauer and Rocque filed for an uncontested divorce in July of 2019, which was finalized by a Suffolk County Supreme Court judge that September. The couple had been separated for almost two years. The publication stated at the time that Lauer would pay Roque up to $20 million in a divorce and that she retained the ownership of a horse farm that they jointly owned in the Hamptons.
A source reportedly told the publication that the former couple, who have three children together, were on good terms.
Not long after the divorce was finalized, Lauer reportedly began dating marketing and public relations executive Shamin Abas. “Matt and Shamin have known each other for many years, as she spends a lot of time in the Hamptons, as does he," a source close to Lauer told Page Six. "They very recently began dating, she is a lovely woman.” According to multiple media outlets, they spent the holidays at his home in New Zealand.
New allegations against Lauer surfaced in October 2019.
In his book, Catch and Kill, journalist Ronan Farrow revealed further allegations from Lauer's former NBC coworker Brooke Nevils. She was the previously unnamed former NBC News employee whose complaint contributed to Lauer's firing. However, the full breadth of Nevils's allegations had never been made public, and in Farrow's book she reportedly alleges that she was anally raped by Lauer in his hotel room while attending the Sochi Olympics in 2014 on assignment for NBC.
A statement released by NBC News stated that “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. Our hearts break again for our colleague.”
In a statement to Variety through his lawyer, Lauer denied this allegation, saying that it is "categorically false, ignores the facts, and defies common sense.” He later went on to publish an opinion piece on Mediaite in 2020 accusing Farrow of "shoddy journalism" and failing to fact check his sources in the book. Lauer denied Nevils's version of events as presented in the book at the time of publication, and in his Mediaite piece accused Farrow of bias against NBC. The piece, Lauer noted, was originally intended to publish in November 2019, shortly after Farrow's book release, but was delayed, instead coming on the heels of a story in the New York Times which also criticized Farrow's methods.
Lauer has also accused Farrow of sensationalism, misleading language, and presenting stories "in a way that would suit his activist goals, as opposed to any kind of journalistic standards."
Farrow responded to Lauer's piece on Twitter saying simply: "All I’ll say on this is that Matt Lauer is just wrong. Catch and Kill was thoroughly reported and fact-checked, including with Matt Lauer himself."
All I’ll say on this is that Matt Lauer is just wrong. Catch and Kill was thoroughly reported and fact-checked, including with Matt Lauer himself.
— Ronan Farrow (@RonanFarrow) May 19, 2020
Lauer made similar denials in 2018.
In April of 2018 the disgraced anchor made a statement to the Washington Post in which he said, "I have made no public comments on the many false stories from anonymous or biased sources that have been reported about me over these past several months... I remained silent in an attempt to protect my family from further embarrassment and to restore a small degree of the privacy they have lost. But defending my family now requires me to speak up."
"I fully acknowledge that I acted inappropriately as a husband, father and principal at NBC. However I want to make it perfectly clear that any allegations or reports of coercive, aggressive or abusive actions on my part, at any time, are absolutely false."
He followed that up that May in response to a report released by NBCUniversal following its internal investigation into the misconduct allegations that cost him his job. In a statement to Variety, Lauer said he was fired after "admitting to past relationships with co-workers," but expressed his disagreement with "certain aspects" of the report.
"There are aspects of the NBC report with which I clearly disagree. However, I spent 25 wonderful years at the network, 20 of those at Today, and I’m extremely proud of what we accomplished as a team. On November 29, 2017, I was terminated by NBC after admitting to past relationships with co-workers. A day later I took responsibility for those relationships, apologized to the people I hurt and promised to begin the process of repairing the damage I had caused my family," Lauer said. "I have worked every day since then to honor that promise."
Will he be returning to TV?
In May 2019, CNN chief Jeff Zucker has assured CNN staffers that Lauer will not be appearing on the cable news network. The announcement, which came via an internal broadcast to CNN employees according to Page Six, appears to have been a direct result of Lauer making a rare public appearance at Zucker's birthday celebration.
Zucker previously served as an executive at NBC, including a stint as executive producer on the Today show while Lauer was at the helm, and the two are said to have remained friends even after parting ways professionally. Combined with his appearance at Zucker's party, this prompted some to speculate that Lauer might be planning a much-rumored return to the airwaves on CNN.
"In many ways the Matt rumors seemed to make sense, ratings on CNN’s morning show and across prime time have been flagging, and perhaps Matt could be brought back to revive the numbers, and his own career at the same time," one CNN insider reportedly told Page Six, adding that some senior female staffers at the network already had plans to refuse to work with Lauer. "There was palpable relief in the office after Jeff confirmed Matt isn’t happening," the source said.
How Lauer's departure impacted Today
While the allegations against Lauer that ultimately led to his firing were a surprise to many, a ratings review showed that the damage to Today has been significantly less dramatic than many experts had feared.
Indeed, according to numbers obtained from the Nielsen company by USA Today, the NBC morning show averaged 4 million viewers each morning in late 2018, just 3% lower than its ratings before Lauer’s exit. By comparison, CBS This Morning, which lost anchor Charlie Rose around the same time as Lauer under another sexual misconduct scandal, was reportedly down 10% over the same time period.
“There was concern when Matt Lauer left that they would be hurt more than turned out to be the case,” Garth Tiedje, an analyst and senior vice president at Horizon Media told USA Today.
The show's ability to maintain its audience is attributed in part to its long track record—Today first launched in 1952—as well as the success of replacement host Hoda Kotb. Kotb’s popularity among women is strong, essential considering that female viewers make up the bulk of Today's audience. In fact, according to Marketing Evaluations, Inc., her popularity score more than doubles Lauer’s last score among older women.
On June 20, 2019, the NBC morning show shared a celebratory video on air showing special moments from throughout the show's history to mark 25 years on the air. While the five minute video shared a number of iconic moments from the show's run, fans were quick to point out that Lauer, who served on the show for 20 of its 25 year run, was notably missing from the clips.
Opinions were divided on whether or not Lauer deserved to be in the anniversary video. While some felt that Lauer's behavior should disqualify him from being publicly acknowledged—"Thank you for not including Matt Lauer you did the right thing," one Twitter user wrote—others felt that despite the allegations his long service on the show should not have been glossed over. Another Twitter fan argued, "Amazing that a member of “the family” was totally excluded from the 25th Anniversary of Studio 1-A. I know there were serious issues with Matt Lauer and his conduct is not to ever be condoned, but all “families” are flawed in some way. Aren’t they? History shouldn’t be erased."
Thank you for not including Matt Lauer you did the right thing
— Anneisafan (@anne_is_a_fan) June 20, 2019
Amazing that a member of “the family” was totally excluded from the 25th Anniversary of Studio 1-A. I know there were serious issues with Matt Lauer and his conduct is not to ever be condoned, but all “families” are flawed in some way. Aren’t they? History shouldn’t be erased
— Richard Iniguez (@riniguez23) June 20, 2019
Lauer wasn't the only former face of the show to be omitted from the anniversary, though. Viewers also noted that Ann Curry, who served as Lauer's co-anchor from 2011 to 2012, also did not appear in any of the clips chosen for the anniversary. Curry was unexpectedly forced out of her role on Today in 2012, a removal in which Lauer himself reportedly had a hand, leaving a particularly bitter taste in the mouths of fans who felt Curry, at least, deserved to be recognized.
How Lauer's departure impacted his former colleagues
According to statements she made to People in 2018, Kathie Lee Gifford had informed the network in January of 2017 that she would be leaving he fourth hour of Today, which she hosted with Hoda Kotb, to pursue film projects. Those plans fell by the wayside amid the turmoil that followed the misconduct allegations against Lauer and his subsequent removal.
“Some things were painful for us. And we had to adjust, and then they said, ‘If we accommodate your schedule, will you consider staying?’" she told People at the time. "I wasn’t looking to get out, but I needed the time. So when they accommodated the schedule, then there was no reason to leave."
Jenna Bush Hager officially replaced Kathie Lee as co-host of the 10 o'clock hour in April of 2019.
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