A Look Back at Matt Lauer's Past Scandals 1 Year After His Firing
By Antoinette Bueno
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It's been exactly one year since Today show fans were stunned on Nov. 29, 2017, when co-anchor Savannah Guthrie announced that Matt Lauer had been fired from the long-running morning show for "inappropriate sexual behavior."
NBC News chairman Andy Lack revealed in a letter to staff that Lauer had been accused by a female colleague of “inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace," and after a "serious review," called Lauer's alleged actions a "clear violation of our company's standards." Lauer was then immediately fired.
"While it is the first complaint about his behavior in the over 20 years he’s been at NBC News, we were also presented with a reason to believe this may not have been an isolated incident," Lack wrote. "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.”
"There isn't a day that goes by that Matt doesn't regret his inappropriate behavior," the source says. "He is learning to move forward but he misses the life he once had and he is still coming to terms with the fact he will never have that life again.”
"He would love a career in news again," the source continues. "Before this, he never stopped working. Now he has time to think about his life and what he will do next and he has high hopes for the coming year. He has used this year to reflect on his mistakes, on what he once had, and how he will move forward. His time away from work has given him no choice but to think and focus on his kids.”
According to the source, Lauer is looking for a fresh start.
"Matt has been exercising, looking and feeling better," the source says. "He has expressed to his old friends that he is interested in opportunities in London and online. Both would give him the ability to start fresh.”
Though the news was shocking at the time, it wasn't the first time Lauer has been involved in a scandal. Let's take a look back at a few of Lauer's past headlines.
2006: Lauer's wife, Annette Roque, reportedly accuses him of "cruel and inhumane acts" in divorce filing.
According to The New York Daily News, Roque reportedly filed for divorce against her husband in September 2006, before eventually withdrawing the documents. According to paperwork first obtained by the National Enquirer, Roque -- who has been married to Lauer since 1998 -- accused her husband of "cruel and inhumane acts."
Accusations reportedly included Lauer being controlling over “even the smallest decisions” having to do with such issues as finances and decorating, and Lauer demonstrating “extreme anger and hostility” toward Roque.
Roque and Lauer ended up reconciling and share three kids together, though their marriage hasn't weathered his latest scandal. In August, a source told ET that he had agreed to pay his estranged wife $20 million in a divorce settlement.
2012: Lauer criticized after Ann Curry leaves 'Today.'
Ann Curry's firing from Today in June 2012 after only a year as the show's co-host drew plenty of criticism, and in New York Times reporter Brian Stelter's 2013 book, Top of the Morning, Stelter alleged Curry's dismissal was planned well in advance.
"It wasn't obvious at the time, but Ann Curry was a dead woman walking," Stelter wrote. "She was never really given a chance to co-host the show. She was being undermined the whole time."
"Ann Curry's last few days at Today were gut-wrenching," Stelter also alleged. "I was watching outside from the windows and I could see that Matt Lauer and Ann Curry would never speak to each other except when they had to on camera."
Lauer was blamed by media critics for both a ratings decline at the Today show and the mishandling of Curry's departure, and addressed it during a March 2013 interview with Howard Kurtz, the Washington bureau chief for The Daily Beast and Newsweek.
"I don't think the show and the network handled the transition well. You don't have to be Einstein to know that," he acknowledged. "It clearly did not help us. We were seen as a family, and we didn't handle a family matter well."
"It was a hard time for everybody," he added about Curry's departure. "We were getting kicked around a lot. Some of it was self-inflicted and perhaps deserved."
After Lauer's firing, it's clear there's no love lost between the old colleagues. "I am not surprised by the allegations," Curry said during her appearance on CBS This Morning in January. "Now I'm walking down that road. I'm trying not to hurt people and I know what it's like to be publicly humiliated. I never did anything wrong to be publicly humiliated and I don't want to cause that kind of pain to somebody else."
"I can say that I would be surprised if many women did not understand that there was a climate of verbal harassment that existed," she continued about her time on the Today show. "I think it would be surprising if someone said that they didn't see that. It was verbal sexual harassment."
“A woman approached me and asked me tearfully if I could help her,” Curry told The Washington Post, claiming that she was approached during her last year on the Today show. “She was afraid of losing her job. ...I believed her.”
“I told management they had a problem and they needed to keep an eye on him and how he deals with women,” she added.
"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," his statement read. "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. 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," the statement continued. "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."
2012: Katie Couric says Lauer "pinched her on the a**" a lot.
Katie Couric hosted Today with Lauer for nine years, and in a 2012 appearance on Watch What Happens Live With Andy Cohen, claimed Lauer repeatedly touched her butt. When Cohen asked what Lauer's most annoying habit was, Couric replied, "He pinches me on the a** a lot."
“I was joking! It was a total joke,” she said. “In fact, when that started circulating, Andy, I was like, ‘Oh my god, I was on Watch What Happens Live.’ It was so antithetical to the nature of our relationship. I thought it would be funny because it was so weird.”
“It was totally a joke," she added. "But I was really sorry I had made that joke because people misconstrued it."
2012: Lauer criticized over asking Anne Hathaway about her 'wardrobe malfunction.'
Lauer's December 2012 Today interview with Anne Hathaway went viral, when he asked her about paparazzi photos taken under her skirt as she stepped out of her car at the NYC premiere of Les Miserables.
“Seen a lot of you lately,” Lauer joked as he began the interview. “Let’s just get it out of the way. You had a little wardrobe malfunction the other night. What’s the lesson learned from something like that, other than that you keep smiling, which you’ll always do.”
Hathaway quickly stressed that she wasn't a willing participant in the pictures, and brought the conversation back to the film she was promoting.
"Well, it was obviously an unfortunate incident," Hathaway responded. "It kind of made me sad on two accounts. One was that I was very sad that we live in an age when someone takes a picture of another person in a vulnerable moment, and rather than delete it and do the decent thing, sells it. And I’m sorry that we live in a culture that commodifies sexuality of unwilling participants, which brings us back to Les Mis, because that’s what the character [Fantine] is. She is someone who is forced to sell sex to benefit her child because she has nothing and there’s no social safety net, so yeah -- let’s get back to Les Mis.”
2016: Matt Lauer and Natalie Morales deny they had an affair.
In 2016, both Lauer and former Today co-anchor Natalie Morales addressed rumors that they had an affair, which allegedly led her to leave the morning show.
"Every aspect of this story is untrue, and it’s frankly sad that someone would tell lies to harm everyone involved," Lauer told The New York Post.
"There is absolutely no truth to this completely absurd story," Morales added. "It is damaging, hurtful and extremely sexist. I have proven myself in all aspects of my job as a news professional and journalist, and am adding to my role, taking on three jobs with Access Hollywood Live and Access Hollywood, in addition to Today. This move was dictated by me and my desire to grow in my career. Any insinuations beyond that are uninformed."
On Wednesday, Morales once again slammed the affair rumors in response to Lauer's firing.
“I woke up to the news like everyone this morning -- just in shock," Morales said on Access Hollywood Live. The Today show, of course, has been my family for 16 years now and it is difficult. I have personally dealt with rumors in the past for years that were hurtful to me, my family -- they diminished my hard work. I’ve addressed those rumors head-on in the past."
"That is not the story today," she continued. "The story today is the courage of a colleague who did come forward, and when and if she wants to tell her story publicly, I’m sure she will. But it did take a lot of courage for her to come forward. It was no doubt a very painful decision."
2016: Lauer slammed over Hillary Clinton-Donald Trump forum.
Lauer was accused by critics of unfairness and sexism when he hosted a live prime-time forum with then-presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton last September. Lauer repeatedly grilled Clinton over the closed FBI investigation into her use of a private email server as secretary of state, as opposed to national security and foreign policy issues. Critics also accused Lauer of repeatedly interrupting Clinton, while largely unchallenging Trump.
"Lauer had turned what should have been a serious discussion into a pointless ambush. What a waste of time," Clinton later wrote in her campaign memoir, What Happened. “I can’t say I didn’t fantasize about shaking some sense into Lauer while I was out there."
Regarding Lauer's treatment of Trump at the forum, Clinton wrote that she was "was almost physically sick" over the anchor's "soft-pedal" interview.
Lauer did not comment on the allegations or his recent termination until Thursday morning at the top of the Today show. For more on his shocking firing, watch the video below: