Today Staffer Shares Moment They Learned Matt Lauer Was Fired: 'You Could Hear Shock Waves'
Today employees were stunned to learn Matt Lauer had been fired by NBC following a complaint about “inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace” – just hours before going live for Wednesday’s show.
One staffer shared their experience of learning the news about the 59-year-old anchor’s termination with PEOPLE, revealing it was clear something was going on upon arriving to work.
“I got in this morning around 3 and could tell instantly that something was wrong,” the source says. “It was really obvious. Everyone has their doors closed and there was a lot of whispering. Closed door meetings, all that.”
While Lauer’s co-anchor Savannah Guthrie is usually very social and upbeat, the insider said her attitude was completely different when she arrived around 4:15 a.m. “Her eyes were puffy and she walked past everyone without saying a word.”
The staffer explains, “Someone told me that Matt was gone, and it took a minute to sink in. My first thought was like, ‘Gone? Like dead?’ But then they said he had been fired. And it was like, ‘That doesn’t compute,’ because Matt has been the face of Today for so long. But the thing is that no one knew why, but we knew it had to be serious for him to be fired on the spot.”
Soon after, everyone received an announcement from Andrew Lack, chairman of NBC News, stating that Lauer had been terminated after a colleague came forward with a complaint about sexual misconduct.
“When the memo came through, you could hear the shock waves in the office. Everyone was so quiet, and you could literally hear gasping when people read it,” the staffer reveals. “It was like, ‘Holy s— , this is huge.'”
Despite the shocking news, management said the show must go on and that they would receive more information later.
“It’s a weird vibe,” the source says. “Everyone is really giving it their all today, like getting Today on the air is the most important thing in the world right now. But in the down moments, there are a lot of pained looks. I locked eyes with someone and we both just shook our heads. It’s very, very sad.”
The staffer adds, “It is definitely the strangest day we’ve ever had here at the Today show. It’s so dark and ugly.”
Lack’s statement was read on-air by Guthrie, 45, and Hoda Kotb, 53, to open Today.
“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,” said Lack. “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 went on to say they were informed of the news just this morning.
“As I’m sure you can imagine, we are devastated and we are still processing all of this,” said Guthrie. “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.”
“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,” she continued. “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 joined Guthrie in Lauer’s usual seat — echoed her colleague’s statements, calling it a “tough morning.”
“It’s hard to reconcile 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.”