There may be as many as eight women now accusing disgraced NBC Today Show host Matt Lauer of sexual assault or harassment, according to Stephanie Gosk, the NBC News reporter now investigating the Lauer story for the network that fired the 59-year-old longtime anchor on Wednesday.
Whether NBC executives knew about Lauer’s alleged predatory sexual behavior in the NBC offices remains unclear, however. In a statement, NBC denied that any “current” executives were aware of the accusations against Lauer; many of which were reported in graphic detail in media accounts Wednesday.
Perhaps the most shocking accusation appeared in a New York Times story published late on Wednesday, in which an NBC employee said that in 2001, Lauer, after calling her into his office to discuss a news story, locked the door behind her and ordered her to unbutton her blouse. He then pulled down the woman’s pants, forced her to bend over a chair, and sexually assaulted her until she lost consciousness. When she woke up on Lauer’s office floor, according to the Times story, Lauer ordered one of his assistants to take her to see a nurse for medical attention.
Lauer was fired Wednesday from the job he had held since 1997, after NBC received a complaint from a female employee stating that in 2014, Lauer had behaved towards her in a sexually inappropriate way when they were in Sochi, Russia, as the network covered the Winter Olympic Games there.
Appearing with recently hired Today Show co-anchor Megyn Kelly on Thursday morning, Gosk said that while she believes that there are as many as eight women now accusing Lauer of sexual misconduct, the actual number is difficult to determine because the accusers have all, so far, chosen to remain anonymous.
Variety Magazine published an investigative report on Wednesday saying that it had interviewed three women who say that Lauer sexually assaulted or harassed them while the Times report described two unnamed accusers. In its statement announcing Lauer’s firing, NBC said that it had received only one accusation against Lauer, charging that he had assaulted the still-anonymous victim in Sochi.
But due to the anonymity of the accusers, Gosk said that it has been difficult to know if there is any overlap between accusers speaking to different media outlets.
NBC management is currently claiming to have been in the dark about Lauer’s alleged activities as a workplace sexual predator. But the network’s statement Wednesday appeared to be carefully worded, allowing for future revelations that could reveal knowledge of Lauer’s behavior by NBC management.
“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,” the NBC statement read.
Gosk told Kelly that because the network denied only that “current” executives had received no sexual misconduct complaints about Lauer before this week, her investigation was now attempting to question former NBC executives about what they knew or didn’t know regarding Lauer’s activities.
But former NBC President Jeff Zucker, now president of CNN, said on Thursday that he had no idea about Lauer’s alleged secret life as a sexual predator. Zucker was the executive producer of Today from 1992 to 2000, and he would have played a role in hiring Lauer, which took place in 1997.
“I’ve known Matt for 25 years and I didn’t know this Matt,” Zucker said at a business conference on Thursday, according to a Variety report. “There was never a complaint about Matt. There was never a suggestion of that kind of deviant or predatory behavior. There was never even a whisper of it.”
While the working atmosphere in the Today offices has frequently been described as a “boy’s club,” by employees and in the media, Zucker said, “that’s not the way that I would have characterized the show.”