“It’s heartbreaking when you’re in the business and you know people, or you think you know people, and then to hear the stories come out,” Vieira, 64, told Andy Cohen on Monday on SiriusXM’s Radio Andy about the number of “broadcasting icons” — also including Charlie Rose and Tom Brokaw — who have been accused of sexual misconduct.
“I obviously was away from the Today show when all this happened with Matt. I was in L.A. actually when the news broke and [was] shocked, like everybody else,” said Vieira, who co-hosted the Today show alongside Lauer from 2006-11. “My phone was going crazy in the middle of the night and I thought what is going on? And it was people in New York telling me put on the TV. Obviously it hadn’t played yet in Los Angeles.”
Although the accusations surrounding Lauer, 60, and fellow acclaimed journalists have come as a surprise to Vieira and the public alike, she’s thankful that the #MeToo Movement has emboldened victims of sexual harassment and abuse to come forward and share their stories.
“I really appreciate the #MeToo Movement. I think it’s long overdue. Clearly, there’s been a problem that has been ignored, and a lot of people have been hurt, and I think they deserve to have their truth told,” Vieira said. “What I hope happens from all of this is that we create a workplace where women and men will feel safe.”
Lauer was fired at the end of November by NBC News after the network received a “detailed complaint from a colleague about inappropriate sexual behavior,” with reason to believe “this may not have been an isolated incident.” Women have also anonymously accused him of sexual harassment and assault in reports published by Variety and The New York Times.
Following his firing, which was announced live on Today by Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb, Lauer addressed the original allegations in a statement.
“There are no words to express my sorrow and regret for the pain I have caused others by words and actions,” he said, in part. “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.”
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For the first time in five months following his abrupt firing, Lauer released a second statement in April, initially published by The Washington Post and obtained by PEOPLE. (Lauer’s lawyers say that Lauer’s statement was not published in full by the Washington Post.)
“Five months ago I was terminated by NBC after admitting to past relationships with co-workers,” he said. “A day later I took responsibility, apologized to the people I had hurt and promised to begin the process of repairing the damage I had caused my family. I have worked every day since then to honor that promise.”
“I have made no public comments on the many false stories from anonymous or biased sources that have been reported about me over these past several months — including a claim that I would, or even could, lock someone in my office. I remained silent in an attempt to protect my family from further embarrassment and to restore a small degree of the privacy they have lost,” he continued.
“But defending my family now requires me to speak up. I fully acknowledge that I acted inappropriately as a husband, father and principal at NBC. However I want to make it perfectly clear that any allegations or reports of coercive, aggressive or abusive actions on my part, at any time, are absolutely false,” he concluded the statement.