The firing of Matt Lauer has sent shockwaves through the television industry. Lauer has hosted Today since 1997 and has become the biggest name on NBC news. Now, just a week after CBS fired Charlie Rose, NBC has booted Lauer from the air.
So what happened, and what does this mean for Today? Here’s what we know.
NBC fired Lauer after an employee accused him of sexual misconduct
On Nov. 27, an NBC employee filed a complaint against Matt Lauer. In a memo to staff published by CNN, NBC News Chairman Andy Lack said this employee complained of Lauer’s alleged inappropriate behavior.
Lack explained: “On Monday night, we received a detailed complaint from a colleague about inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace by Matt Lauer. It represented, after serious review, a clear violation of our company’s standards.”
Lack said in his memo this was the first complaint that had been filed against Lauer in 20 years, but also clarified they had reason believe it was not an isolated incident. Thus far, the woman who filed the complaint has not come forward to tell her story publicly.
The New York Post reports Lauer sexually assaulted an employee during Olympics coverage
Exclusive: Lauer allegedly sexually assaulted NBC staffer during Olympics. 'She made a complaint to NBC HR Monday, and her evidence was so compelling that Matt was fired."
https://t.co/BjmBrJMLGR via @pagesix
— Page Six Emily (@PageSixEmily) November 29, 2017
While the woman involved has not come forward with her story about Lauer yet, The New York Post has a new report out, claiming that Lauer sexually assaulted a female staffer during coverage of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.
The New York Post did not provide any further details. But NBC News itself has confirmed at least part of this story, reporting that Lauer was accused of inappropriate sexual behavior at the 2014 Olympics. And Variety later reported that the complaint was “about inappropriate sexual conduct from Lauer that started on a trip at the Sochi Olympics in 2014 and continued for several months.”
NBC says they believe this was not an isolated incident
— Ramin Setoodeh (@RaminSetoodeh) November 29, 2017
Lauer’s firing came surprisingly quickly, especially since Lack suggested it happened after just one accusation. Unlike Charlie Rose, NBC didn’t even suspend Lauer first; they just immediately fired him. But NBC News said in its memo that it has reason to believe that this was not an isolated incident.
In addition, CNN is reporting that NBC has known for a while that damaging stories about Lauer might come out. The New York Times has reportedly been investigating Lauer for weeks, and Variety has had their own expose in the works for two months. Variety’s Ramin Setoodeh said on Twitter that multiple women have made serious sexual harassment allegations against Lauer for a story they’ve been working on.
That Variety report was published later in the day, and it featured some shocking accusations, including that Lauer had a button installed under his desk that locked his office door when he pressed it. Multiple women told Variety that they were sexually harassed by Lauer, with one saying Lauer exposed himself to her in his office.
Lauer is one of the nation’s most well-known TV anchors
Lauer was easily the most well-known and influential of NBC News’ hosts. According to Variety, he extended his contract with NBC in 2016 and was being paid $20 million per year. This made him the highest-paid TV anchor.
That’s even more money than Fox News was paying Bill O’Reilly, their biggest anchor who they fired in 2017 due to sexual harassment allegations. This story also comes at a time when Today has been performing well in the ratings. Good Morning America remains No. 1 in viewership, but according to Ad Week, Today has been No. 1 in the key 25-54 demographic for 99 consecutive weeks, consistently beating out Good Morning America and CBS This Morning. And according to the Los Angeles Times, the show earns NBC about $500 million per year.
CNN’s Brian Stelter put the monumental significance of Lauer’s firing into context by noting, “The Today show invented the genre of morning television 60 years ago, and for the last 20 years, Lauer has been the cornerstone of that program. It makes hundreds of millions of dollars per year for NBC News.”
However, what has become clear in recent weeks is that no celebrity is too big that they can’t be held accountable for their actions. That wasn’t always the case, but it is now.
Lauer was one of the main reasons viewers watched Today
So just how much of Today‘s viewership tunes in because of Lauer? It seems that a substantial enough percentage of them do.
According to The Los Angeles Times, internal surveys conducted by NBC have consistently shown that Lauer’s presence was a key reason viewers watched Today over competing morning shows.
Lauer’s firing, though clearly justified, may therefore have a significant impact on Today‘s ratings going forward, and NBC must choose his replacement carefully.
He may be replaced with Willie Geist or Craig Melvin
NBC will want to replace Lauer fairly quickly. Considering they’ve apparently known about the accusations for weeks, it would not be surprising if they already had a replacement in mind.
One person who would seem to be a natural choice is Willie Geist. Geist is a co-anchor on Morning Joe, but he also hosts Sunday Today with Willie Geist. On that show, which premiered in 2016, Geist performs a job quite similar to that of Lauer on Today, so it would be a natural transition. Plus, Geist has filled in for Lauer on Today before.
Megyn Kelly could also be Lauer’s replacement
The person a lot of people immediately speculated would replace Matt Lauer is Megyn Kelly. Kelly joined NBC earlier this year, and she comes on right after Lauer.
As The New York Times’ James Poniewozik points out on Twitter, it would be refreshing to see a female replacement for Lauer and for the network to realize that two women hosting the show would be perfectly fine; it’s not a requirement for one of the hosts to be a man. If Kelly were the replacement, this would be the first time ever in Today‘s history that it did not have a man as one of the main anchors, according to Syracuse.com.
But we shouldn’t be too quick to assume Kelly will get the job. After all, her morning show has been somewhat controversial ever since it premiered in September. The ratings were not great from the start, although they’ve been slowly improving, according to Ad Week. And her coverage of recent sexual harassment scandals has been praised, especially her recent monologue about Bill O’Reilly.
Many want to see Ann Curry replace Lauer
Another great possible choice to replace Lauer would be Ann Curry. Curry, of course, left Today in 2012. This, apparently, was largely because of Lauer. It has been reported that the two did not get along, which played a big part in her firing.
“It was obvious…that Lauer wasn’t trying hard enough to make it work with Curry because he simply didn’t like her,” according to New York Magazine. “Off air, Curry and Lauer had no relationship and barely spoke.”
Now that Lauer is gone, many are calling for Curry to be hired back. This became such a popular sentiment, in fact, that Ann Curry began trending on Twitter after Lauer’s firing. Similarly, many others want to see Tamron Hall, who left NBC earlier this year, return to replace Lauer.
Regardless of who NBC picks, with its biggest anchor gone, Today is about to change forever.
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