Stephanie Petit and Kate Coyne
November 29, 2017 07:13 AM

Matt Lauer has been fired by NBC.

Savannah Guthrie, Lauer’s Today cohost, opened the show Wednesday with the news, reading a statement from Andrew Lack, chairman of NBC News.

“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. As a result, we’ve decided to terminate his employment,” Lack said in the statement. “While it is the first complaint about his behavior in the over twenty years he’s been at NBC News, we were also presented with reason to believe this may not have been an isolated incident.

“Our highest priority is to create a workplace environment where everyone feels safe and protected, and to ensure that any actions that run counter to our core values are met with consequences, no matter who the offender.

“We are deeply saddened by this turn of events. But we will face it together as a news organization – and do it in as transparent a manner as we can. To that end, Noah and I will be meeting with as many of you as possible throughout the day today to answer your questions.”

 

Guthrie said in a shaky voice, “We just learned this moments ago, just this morning. As I’m sure you can imagine, we are devastated and we are still processing all of this. And I will tell you right now, we do not know more than what I just shared with you. But we will be covering this story as reporters, as journalists. I’m sure we will be learning more details in the hours and days to come, and we promise we will share that with you.”

She added, “We are heartbroken. I’m heartbroken for Matt – he is my dear, dear friend and my partner, and he has been loved by many, many people here. And I’m heartbroken for the brave colleague who came forward to tell her story, and any other women who have their own stories to tell.”

Hoda Kotb joined Guthrie in Lauer’s usual seat, calling it a “tough morning.”

“It’s hard to reconcile with what we are hearing with the man who we know, who walks in this building every single day,” Kotb said. “We were both woken up with the news, kind of pre-dawn, and we’re trying to process it and trying to make sense of it – and it’ll take some time for that.”

Al Roker and Matt Lauer

Guthrie promised viewers to be “transparent” in covering Lauer’s termination.

Al Roker was visibly upset, saying that he was “trying to process” the news about his friend of 30 years.

President Donald Trump responded to the news on Twitter, writing, “Wow, Matt Lauer was just fired from NBC for ‘inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace.’ But when will the top executives at NBC & Comcast be fired for putting out so much Fake News. Check out Andy Lack’s past!”

Lauer was believed to be on a multi-million dollar deal that he recently re-signed a few years ago.

A source with background knowledge tells PEOPLE that Lauer’s termination was precipitated by NBC firing Matt Zimmerman, a former talent booking executive, earlier this month.

“We have recently learned that Matt Zimmerman engaged in inappropriate conduct with more than one woman at NBCU, which violated company policy. As a result he has been dismissed,” NBC News said in a statement to Variety at the time.

PEOPLE’s source says, “Lauer’s firing is very closely tied to Matt Zimmerman’s firing; to understand what has happened to Matt Lauer you need to understand what happened to Matt Zimmerman. Zimmerman had an affair that was consensual— albeit the question of consent is a tricky one when you’re dealing with somebody who is your superior. When the affair ended, the woman with whom he had been having the affair felt manipulated, mislead and used, and ultimately complained to superiors that she now felt she was in a hostile work environment and that she had been taken advantage of. And again, that’s where the question of How much consent can you really give if someone has significant seniority over you? comes into play. At any rate, NBC decided that, basically, ANY affair is grounds for firing because it’s improper workplace conduct.”

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