“It’s like a death in the family. Everybody is crying,” a show source tells PEOPLE. “No one knows what the f— happened. It came out of nowhere.”
Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb broke the news Wednesday morning, opening the show with a statement from NBC News chairman Andrew Lack. Lack said that officials received a “detailed complaint” from a colleague accusing Lauer of inappropriate sexual behavior.
“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.”
The source says there hadn’t been whispers about the firing around the set in the days leading up to the news.
“Everyone wants to know what is going on,” the insider adds. “Matt was really popular around here.”
The Today staff learned the news just moments before going live, Guthrie said on the show. And the shock was evident in her shaking voice as she reacted to the news.
“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,” Guthrie said. “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.”
Kotb, who sat in Lauer’s usual seat on Wednesday, described the morning as a “tough” one.
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“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.”
A visibly upset Al Roker said that he was “trying to process” the news about his friend of 30 years.