Plenty of the names and faces that have appeared in front of the camera are well-known simply for being on the program, including Frank Blair and Ann Curry. One of the names, however, has a cloud hanging over it: Matt Lauer.
What Went Down?
Since being accused of inappropriate behavior (and let's just say that's putting it quite mildly), Lauer has been let go from the famous show, and it's become pretty hard to see him in front of a camera.
But what is the whole story?
Lauer was at the top of his professional game while working on the Today show. He was conducting interviews, working for the crowd, and showing off his professionally-balding head without a care in the world.
But it all came crashing down on November 29, 2017, when NBC confirmed they had terminated the newsman from his employment thanks to a statement by a female NBC worker. While it was the first complaint Lauer had ever received after working over twenty years at NBC, it couldn't be ignored.
He Was a Dropout
Before we drop the bomb on Lauer, let's talk about how he dropped out of college. You'd think a lengthy and expensive career guided Lauer into the upper echelons of newscasting, but you'd be wrong. In fact, Lauer's possible alma mater was nothing special: Scripps College of Communication, School of Media Arts and Studies.
He dropped out in 1979, knowing his future lay waiting for him outside the classroom. Until 2017, of course, he seemed to be right. The decision paid off greatly. The funny thing is while we're sure Scripps is a fine college, it's not what you would call prestigious.
Stepping Into The Limelight
Matt Lauer's big risk paid off: he leaped right into the television industry. The same year he dropped out of college, he managed to get a job with WOWK-TV as a producer. Learning the ropes of a brand-new industry is never easy, but he managed it with aplomb, getting the ins and outs of what was required for a newscast – in the meantime, he fell in love with the business.
He had found his place in the world, but he knew he would never be satisfied staying behind the camera. This man was destined for the desk.
The News Guy
After a year at WOWK-TV, Lauer was up for promotion and he got it. Given the chance to move in front of the camera and appear as an on-air reporter, he was determined to show he could make it in the big leagues. His drive and professionalism shined through during those years, and he was soon traveling the country to appear for various news stations in the U.S.
All that exposure not only helped him hone his craft, but got him noticed by one of the biggest names in the news business: the National Broadcasting Company, or NBC.
He Landed It
Lauer became a household name when the early nineties rolled around, and thanks to this buzz about the young anchor, he got the nod to fill in as a substitute news anchor on the Today show when Margaret Larson was out.
The fill-in gig acted as his audition for the anchor spot, which NBC offered to him in January of 1994. The new year hit, and Lauer became part of the full-time cast. Lauer was overjoyed, since all his hard work had finally paid off in a big way, but he had no idea what was waiting in store for him when he took the job.
The Tom Cruise Interview
Matt Lauer faced controversy even long before this scandal. One incident in particular dates back to 2005, when he interviewed Tom Cruise. Lauer grilled Cruise on a number of topics including his devotion to Scientology, depression, and psychiatric medication.
Voices were raised, and insults were thrown, with Cruise calling Lauer “glib.” This interview soon made headlines, but not for the right reasons. Looking back, people say there were red flags that should have warned us of Lauer’s later behavior…
Lauer isn't always argumentative. He's had plenty of very heartfelt and emotional meetings, both in the studio and outside. One of the most famous of these meetings was in 2007, when royal princes William and Harry spoke to Lauer about their later mother, Princess Diana. It was the tenth anniversary of her death, and the emotional interview swept across the world.
Talk about big names – the man spoke to royalty. It proved Lauer wasn't just a firecracker, and those who watched the interview found themselves getting emotional at the stories the brothers told about their mother.
The Renewed Contract
Lauer had become one of the most famous reporters in the world – in just over a decade. He was the face millions of people saw every morning when they turned on the television, and he was the one who broke the biggest stories. His professionalism, style, and work ethic had taken him far.
It was no surprise, then, that NBC offered to renew his contract in 2012. The contract ran through 2017, and while the details aren't fully public, it's believed that Lauer earned an amazing twenty-five million dollars a year. An incredible amount for what was an incredible reporter for NBC.
Begin To Bubble
Millions were thrilled to hear that Lauer would continue his work. Whether it was the Today show, his interviews, or any of his other work, he was a star. However, not everything was perfect. During the summer of 2012, Lauer went with co-hosts Bob Costas and Meredith Vieria to cover the London Olympic Games, and his performance was less than stellar.
While providing commentary for the games, and it impressed no one in the states – but it was even worse from those in Europe. He was criticized as being “banal,” and even “ignorant.” Not things you want to hear about your big star.
This wasn't the only time Lauer found himself under the microscope. Just a year earlier in 2011, Today show co-anchor Ann Curry announced she would be leaving her role, a decision that came as a shock to a great many people. Why would such a talented and respected woman leave one of the top spots in the industry?
One where millions of people saw her smile and hung on her every word every day? Over the next few years, however, a name would come to light, one that signaled the beginning of the real problems for Lauer: Operation Bambi.
Since Curry left, allegations have arisen that have pointed the finger at the top brass of NBC, Lauer included. So the allegations go, these powerful men banded together to create Operation Bambi in an effort to get Curry to quit. Supposedly they bullied her while the cameras were off, humiliated her while they were on, and at one point even put all of her belongings into a box.
The rumor says that Lauer was part of this clique and that he personally played a huge part in her eventual resignation, though further details have yet to be uncovered – and if NBC has their way, will never be uncovered.
Enter Charlie Sheen
Despite this controversy, Lauer continued his job at NBC and on the Today show. He continued to interview some of the biggest names around the world, including one man whose fall from grace came in 2011. The man with tiger blood in his veins: Charlie Sheen. This interview would lead to yet another headline for Lauer.
We saw plenty of Sheen on our screens, but this interview came with a bomb no one was expecting. In this one-of-a-kind interview, Sheen announced that he was HIV-positive, a diagnosis that might explain some of his erratic behavior, and which led to his declining health.
Matt and Caitlyn
The same year he talked with Sheen, he also sat down with former Olympian Caitlyn Jenner (formerly Bruce Jenner), and the two spoke about Caitlyn's transition after appearing on the cover of Vanity Fair earlier in the year. The interview contained a number of probing questions about lives new and old.
It was a bit of surprise that, wrapped up in all the fluffy softballs Lauer pitched, there was also a fastball in the form of a question about a car crash Caitlyn was involved in, which ended the life of a 69-year-old woman.
The Unstoppable Matt
The controversy was successfully pushed under the rug, and NBC once again chose to renew Lauer as their top man. In November of NBC it was again reported Lauer had a new contract to sign, one that would put him center stage until at least 2018, and all for another incredible sum of money: twenty million a year, if the rumors are to be believed.
Unfortunately for Lauer, it wasn't too long before his glitzy life took a dark turn, and it all came crashing down on him.
Before we go on, let's give a little bit of history on something that is about to be important in Lauer's story. In October of 2017, legendary movie producer Harvey Weinstein came under fire from wide-spread and extremely graphic sexual-abuse allegations, and a movement began.
It was Alyssa Milano who first gave it its name, encouraged women around the globe to come forward via social media. This wasn't the first time “Me Too” was used in such a manner, beginning all the way back in 2006 by activist Tarana Burke.
The movement picked up speed. A number of incredibly high-profile women joined the movement, explaining they, too, had been sexually harassed by men in power. The list of women includes Gwyneth Paltrow, Ashley Judd, Jennifer Lawrence, and Uma Thurman, and they were just the first to speak up.
Widespread media coverage began to heat Hollywood – where almost all of these powerful men resided – up. Millions of people began to parrot the hashtag (#MeToo), unwilling to let such abuses fade away. Numerous high-profile firings began, the backlash against these men and their companies rose, and there have even been criminal charges.
A Changing World
The movement evolved. #HimToo began, which not only highlighted men who have been abused but also fought back against one of the major criticisms of the #MeToo movement, which was the sudden preponderance of false accusations against otherwise innocent men. The abuses of men, real or imagined, no longer faded and instead became a headline after a headline.
The fallout or changes brought on are still being analyzed and interpreted, but one thing is for sure: sexual abuses will no longer be ignored. And so we return to Lauer's story. Any guesses where this is going?
A female employee at NBC lodged a complaint against Lauer, referring to an incident in 2014. Lauer, the female employee, and plenty of others from NBC were at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. The woman – who remains unidentified – complained Lauer behaved most inappropriately with her while the two were in Russia, and the behavior continued once back in the states.
It left the woman feeling uncomfortable and afraid, and in light of the #MeToo movement, she decided enough was enough, and made a complaint to the higher ups. One that even NBC couldn't ignore, given the current climate of abuse.
Before too long it became clear that this had reached farther than just NBC. It turns out that Variety and The New York Times were both doing their own digging after picking up the story – there's nothing like getting a big load of dirt on a business rival.
They were after the full story, and there was no way they were going to stop. It was thanks to these investigations that we learned more about Lauer, including the incredible detail Variety discovered that something like ten other women had also filed allegations against the reporter for similar actions!
Acknowledged By NBC
The entertainment and reporting world tilted when these reports came to light. Thanks to Variety, NBC was forced to comment. NBC stated that they were aware of only three other allegations, and were forced to acknowledge that they had indeed received these formal complaints.
The complaints confirmed the events detailed had occurred between the years of 2000 and 2007, but the complaints largely went ignored. Fans of the Today show were shocked that nothing had been done, and it became clear that Lauer himself would have to talk about his side of the stories, and he thankfully already had a platform to do it from.
Releasing a Statement
As the rumors swirled around Lauer's head, he put himself on the line and on-air by releasing a statement. His professional conduct and life had come under fire, and he did what he could to shed light on the allegations. He first said that some of the allegations were “untrue or mischaracterized,” but went on to say that many aspects had truth to them.
He said that the events that were true left him “embarrassed and ashamed” of his own conduct. However, there is yet more drama that would continue to rock Lauer's life after his public statement.
Two Weeks Later
A mere fortnight after Lauer released his statement on the reports, yet another allegation arose. A woman by the name of Addie Zinone lodged another complaint against the news anchor, once again citing inappropriate behavior of a similar vein.
Zinone was a former production assistant at NBC that explained she had been in a consensual relationship with Lauer, but she felt that Lauer was abusing his power over her during that time. She included details in her report, such as the idea that turning down his advances made her fear for her job. This raises another detail: Lauer was married the whole time.
The Strain on His Marriage
Almost the entire time Lauer was working on the Today show, he had been in a committed relationship with a woman named Annette Roque – the two got hitched in 1998. They had three children together, but as these allegations of misconduct increased in number and severity, Annette revealed that more than once Matt had been unfaithful during their marriage.
All of these unfaithful episodes, as well as the rumors, allegations, and reports, tipped the scales too far for Roque. She filed for divorce in January of 2018 – yet another blow that Lauer took, but nowhere near the last.
The Divorce Payout
Annette leaving was a bad blow to Lauer's personal life, but the divorce came with a monetary blow as well. The three kids we mentioned before still had lives to live, and there are plenty of costs associated with children. They still wanted their kids to have a happy home, so Lauer agreed to pay his eventual ex-wife an incredible amount: twenty million dollars. It might only be one year of work, but it's still a hefty amount of cash.
Page Six reported that this amount came out of Lauer's guilt for cheating on her, and was bending over backward to give her what she wanted.
A Bitter End
The marriage officially came to an end on September seventh, 2019 after almost two years of separation following the abuse allegations. This wasn't even the first time Annette filed for divorce, the first time coming in 2006, while she was pregnant with their third child. On the divorce papers, Annette listed the reason for divorce as “mental abuse, extreme mental and emotional distress, humiliation, torment, and anxiety.”
However, Annette and Lauer reconciled a few weeks after filing. Yet, the second divorce went through, and the couple are now split up.
The First Wife Opens Up
Another interesting fact: Annette wasn't Lauer's first wife. His first marriage was to Nancy Alspaugh who, in a surprising twist, spoke out and said that her ex-husband deserves a second chance. During an interview with ET, Alspaugh went on record saying Lauer was always a “wonderful, generous, kind,” individual. “Matt has always been a support to his family and loved ones,” she said. “He has done so much quietly to help others and to support important causes.
Lauer happened to make an impressive donation to her autism charity, ACT Today.” We wonder if that has anything to do with the kind words Nancy offered.
Second Chance At Love
Lauer's first wife didn't just prop up his character. She also said that she believes it won't be long until Lauer is back in the public's good graces, and will likely find a new relationship soon.
We're starting to wonder why Lauer ever divorced Nancy – we should all find someone who is so supportive.
Time Goes On
Even a year and a half after everything Lauer went through, things still hadn't settled down for this once-legendary newsman. A source speaking to People magazine went into detail commented on how hard this was on him but possibly because he has too much time on his hands.
We get it might be an adjustment, but come on. Lauer currently spends a lot of time at home. What has he been spending all of his ample time at, in his beautiful home and all his money?
The Tell-All Book
It was thought that a tell-all book was headed toward us, and it will give out as many little details as it is possible to divulge. It was believed that the accuser worked for Today show host Meredith Vieira, and there were long discussions with publishers. It wasn't known at first if the accuser would reveal her identity, and before it came out, it was rumored to contain plenty of surprising details.
By now the book has been released, and the details were indeed plenty surprising. They're also quite X-rated, so if you have kids in the room, make sure they aren't reading over your shoulder.
In 2019, American journalist Ronan Farrow published the book Catch and Kill, which recounts the challenges he faced chasing down the stories of abusers such as Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, Woody Allen, and more – including Matt Lauer.
The title of the book comes from a common tactic to make potentially damaging stories disappear, in which a media source (such as a tabloid) buys exclusive rights to “catch” the story, then turning around to “kill” it without releasing it to benefit a third party, almost always the person or persons who would be damaged. All this would be done without the original whistle-blower's knowledge.
A Pair of Powerful Chapters
Two chapters in Catch and Kill deal with Lauer's allegations. In an interview that revealed his original accuser to be Brooke Nevils, a former NBC News employee, Farrow got one of the most explosive segments of the entire book.
In the interview, Nevils alleged that during the 2014 Sochi Olympics, Lauer anally raped Nevils in his hotel room. Nevils had been drinking, and after going up to Lauer's room to retrieve her press credentials, Lauer invited her up again. “[I] had no reason to suspect Lauer would be anything but friendly based on prior experience.”
The Definition of Non-consensual
According to Nevils, once she was in Lauer's hotel room for the second time, Lauer began the assault by pushing her against the door and kissing her. He then pushed her onto the bed, and according to the report, forced himself on her.
“She was in the midst of telling him she wasn't interested again when he 'just did it,'” Farrow wrote in the book.
Too Drunk to Say Yes
Farrow continued saying that while she said yes, she just wept into a pillow.
Nevils maintains that she was just too drunk to truly consent.
A Second Assault
The second sexual encounter Nevils described in Catch and Kill furthers the non-consensual idea. Nevils was in Lauer's office searching for something, and Lauer, according to Nevils, “grabbed her hips."
Additionally, Lauer then pressed her into inappropriate acts and in exchange would offer her favors.
Two Sides to Every Story
Lauer has denied these harsh and heart-rending allegations. In his statement, he maintained that it was purely an extramarital affair that began in 2004 in Sochi, Russia and it was purely consensual.
In addition to this statement, Nevils had more inappropriate encounters with Lauer back in New York. Farrow wrote that sources close to Lauer emphasized that she sometimes initiated the contact.
Scared of the Consequences
Nevils said in Farrow's book that it seemed more transactional than an actual relationship. Nevils was, apparently terrified about the control Lauer had over her career.
After her encounters with Lauer ended, Nevils said she told “like a million people” about her situation with Lauer. Farrow writes: “She told colleagues and superiors at NBC” when she moved to NBC's Peacock Productions to work as a producer, she told her bosses. “It was no secret.”
When the sordid details of Harvey Weinstein's escapades came to light, several friends urged Nevils to take her information to Meredith Vieira. Distraught, Vieira then had Nevils bring the information to NBC Universal human resources through a lawyer. Lauer was fired. However, Nevils's story wasn't over.
She learned that Noah Oppenheim, president of NBC, and Andrew Lack, chairman of NBC News and MSNBC, tried to emphasize that the incident had been neither criminal, nor an assault. “She claims this caused her to throw up,” Farrow wrote. “Nevils's work life became torture.”
A Toxic Work Environment
Farrow continued, detailing how hard it became for Nevils to continue working at NBC. Despite the fact that human resources had promised Nevils she would remain anonymous, revealing the assault had happened at Sochi narrowed the field of possibilities greatly.
Soon it was common knowledge. Nevils went on medical leave, and despite not wanting money, received a seven-figure payout in 2018.
What to Say
The network proposed a script to Nevils, telling her what to say and how to act. It asked her to suggest she had left NBC to pursue other endeavors, that she had been treated well, and that NBC News was a positive example of sexual harassment.” A...positive example of sexual harassment?
We're not sure what that means, and we almost don't want to know. NBC tried and tried to quash the story, according to Farrow. Oppenheim even asked Farrow if the investigation was really worth it, and suggested that no one even knows who Weinstein is.
In an open letter, Lauer wrote that Nevil would visit his apartment and even his dressing room at work. He expressed his bad judgment but insisted that it was completely mutual.
Lauer has also pointed out contradictions in Nevils's story, also stating that many people were aware of the affair.
Nevils's response to Lauer's letter came quickly on its heels. She referred to it as a “case study in victim-shaming.”
Nevils added that she is no longer afraid of him, regardless of the threats and shaming.
The Victim's Never-Ending Nightmare
The event and accusation continued to take its toll on Nevils. She's admitted to suffering from post-traumatic stress since filing the complaint in November 2017. She has also attempted suicide, descended into heavy drinking, but through it all has managed to pull herself back from the brink. She experienced extreme weight loss, losing fourteen pounds in one month. During that same period, she visited doctors twenty-one times.
Nevils is still dealing with the consequences but doesn't regret speaking out. “I've lost everything I cared about,” Nevils says in Farrow's book. “My job. My goals.”]
Yet another strange problem arose for Lauer among all of the tumult, and it has to do with his sixteen thousand acre ranch in New Zealand, called Hunter Valley Station. Just a few years before the allegations began, Lauer purchased the area for a little more than nine million dollars.
New Zealand's Walking Access Commission is now pressuring Lauer to allow hikers access to the ranch, though during a conversation with Radio New Zealand Lauer claimed that he thought the organization was trying to take advantage of him. “I think they see me as an easy mark.” Just let the people hike, Matt.
Back on Television
When NBC terminated Lauer, many of his watchers wondered if they would ever see him on television again. In August of 2018, the answer came when – for some reason – Lauer was speaking to a group of women at the Donahue Steak House in New York. He said they “shouldn't worry about missing his face on their television screens,” which sounds a little bit like a threat. He said he would be “back on TV” soon.
However, he didn't go into any more detail about the how, why, or when of his impending return.
Not Coming Back
And that's because he had an eventual change of mind. People said that this once legendary reporter gave up the limelight chase. Instead, Lauer is focused on being a good father to his children over being the man on the TV.
He's said that he's ready to move on with his life. Lauer's former colleague Megyn Kelly had an interview with Us Weekly , but declined to comment on whether Lauer would, or should, make a comeback. However, she did say the following: “I know too much that others don't know.” How much more is there to Lauer's story?
Well, we know one thing for sure: Lauer’s love life is still strong. He was recently spotted out and about with a new beau: Welsh PR executive Shamin Abas. The two - and Lauer’s nineteen-year-old son, Jack - were test-driving a Ferrari F8 worth almost three hundred thousand dollars. Lauer and Abas had been friends for almost a decade before Lauer’s divorce.
A source close to Lauer says that he had been “on the prowl” for a new girlfriend, which might be the absolute worst way to phrase that.
Wants to Work Again
Lauer’s life currently consists of working on his new relationship, being a father to his three teenage children, and living a quiet life in the Hamptons. He’s hoping to return to journalism, and already has a target in mind. “Matt cares so much about what people think about him, even though he might not want to admit that,” a different source (who may or may not look like Matt Lauer wearing a moustache) said.
“He’s on a mission right now to take down Ronan because he blames Ronan for getting him labeled a rapist.”
Breaking the Silence
Only a few weeks ago, shortly after The New York Times cast doubt on Ronan Farrow’s investigations, Lauer came out with an immense column, almost five thousand words long, that he posted online. The column accuses Farrow of false accusations. He fires back at Nevils’s story, and even points at his fellow journalists. “While the presumption of innocence is only guaranteed in a court of law, I felt journalists should have, at the very least, recognized and considered it.”
The story is still ongoing, and at this point, it’s anyone’s guess where it goes next.