Laughing, Lauer, 59, asked for a chance to explain himself, saying the bag came from a sex therapist who appeared as a guest on Today.
“I didn’t know what to do. I put it in my closet in my dressing room. The next day, we had Laura Bush on the show. And the Secret Service came with the dogs to sweep our dressing rooms,” he said on Vieira’s old talk show Meredith as co-anchor Savannah Guthrie sat beside him, cringing and cracking up. “They open up the thing, and I see the guy pick up the bag. And I’m like, oh my god!”
As TMZ previously reported, Lauer was caught on camera making lewd comments to Vieira, 63, in October 2006.
At the time of the recording, Today went to commercial break, but a local affiliate remained on NBC’s in-studio feed. Lauer sat on the couch as Vieira stood up while attaching a microphone to her shirt. As she grabbed papers from the table, Lauer told her, “Pretty sweater. Keep bending over like that. It’s a nice view.”
NBC announced early Wednesday that Lauer had been fired after the network received a “detailed complaint from a colleague about inappropriate sexual behavior” on Monday, with reason to believe “this may not have been an isolated incident.”
A source told PEOPLE that Lauer was let go due to alleged inappropriate sexual behavior throughout 2014, including at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
In Variety’s report, three anonymous women accused the former newsman of sexual harassment, claiming Lauer had once brought a female employee into this office “and then dropped his pants, showing her his penis.” Lauer then allegedly “reprimanded her for not engaging in a sexual act.”
On Wednesday, a former NBC employee – who spoke to the The New York Times on condition of anonymity – said that Lauer sexually assaulted her in 2001. According to the publication, Lauer had been making “inappropriate comments” to her after she started working at the media company in the late 1990s.
The woman told the Times that Lauer asked her into his office in 2001, and that he locked the doors by pressing a button from his desk.
Lauer, who joined the network in 1992 as a newsreader on Today, had been co-anchor of the morning show since January 1997 and reportedly signed a $20 million dollar contract last year.
“There are no words to express my sorrow and regret for the pain I have caused others by words and actions,” Lauer said. “To the people I have hurt, I am truly sorry. As I am writing this, I realize the depth of the damage and disappointment I have left behind at home and at NBC.”
“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. I regret that my shame is now shared by the people I cherish dearly,” he added. “Repairing the damage will take a lot of time and soul searching, and I’m committed to beginning that effort. It is now my full time job. The last two days have forced me to take a very hard look at my own troubling flaws. It’s been humbling. I am blessed to be surrounded by people I love. I thank them for their patience and grace.”