NBC announced Lauer, 59, had been fired Wednesday 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.”
“What people need to understand is that there is a flip side to Matt-the-serial-adulterer persona, and that’s all the women he didn’t hook up with — and they didn’t always fare so well,” the source tells PEOPLE. “So if you were a woman who didn’t seem just utterly charmed by him, or who wasn’t interested in flirting with him, then you were useless to him, and worse, you’d get a target on your back. Period. If you didn’t bat your eyelashes and giggle and banter and play along, then sooner or later you’d get the criticism that you didn’t appear to be supportive of him, that you didn’t have his back, that you weren’t being a proper colleague to him. But that was almost the best case scenario, because that could ostensibly be fixed: you could just decide to kiss up and go along to get along.”
“Here’s what was worse: if he flat-out wasn’t interested in you? Then you might as well have been invisible,” the source adds. “For the most part, women served no purpose for him unless he was attracted to them. So if he wasn’t hot for you, it was only a matter of time before you’d become more and more marginalized. You were damned if you did and damned if you didn’t.”
PEOPLE previously reported that Lauer allegedly cheated on his wife Annette with multiple women. Since the news broke, two more women have accused him of sexual harassment, and a former NBC employee alleged to The New York Times that he sexually assaulted her in 2001.
“If you’re a PA fetching coffee for him, you’d better know how to flirt,” PEOPLE’s source adds. “If you’re a new producer working on second-hour segments, you’d better know how to flirt. And if he deemed you to be not his type and didn’t want to flirt? Then you’d better not be counting on him to have the first idea who you even are. And certainly not to have your back if you ever want a promotion or anything like that.”
An NBC spokesperson previously told PEOPLE in a statement, “We can say unequivocally, that, prior to Monday night, current NBC News management was never made aware of any complaints about Matt Lauer’s conduct.”
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.
He addressed the allegations for the first time in a statement Thursday.
“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,” he added. “I regret that my shame is now shared by the people I cherish dearly.”