“It’s been a very painful time for a lot of people who worked with Matt, knew him, really care about him, and who never witnessed or experienced any of this behavior that is now being talked about,” Couric, 61, said. “I don’t know the full extent of all these things that happened. I can only talk about my personal experience and I was always treated respectfully and appropriately.”
Asked whether she believed Lauer could return to television, Couric said that would depend on, “the path he chooses and how he [handles] what has happened,” and added that a potential comeback would be “challenging.”
Lauer was fired from the Today show on Nov. 29, after NBC received a "detailed complaint" regarding his behavior. Soon after, Variety published a report containing allegations of sexual misconduct from three different women. In a statement attributed to Lauer, which was read by Today show anchor Savannah Guthrie after he was fired, Lauer said, "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."
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Hoda Kotb and Savannah Guthrie Share Their 'Hopes' For Matt Lauer (Exclusive)
After the allegations against Lauer surfaced, a video of Couric appearing on Watch What Happens Live went viral due to her being asked about Lauer’s most annoying habit and answering, “He pinches me on the a** a lot.”
"I think that's very illustrative of the current media landscape, that something can be plucked, and then taken out of context," Couric explained to ET. "It's a silly joke on a late-night show that was just that -- a silly joke. People read into everything these days, and I think it just goes with the territory. But it was nice for me to be able to say that that was a joke."
"I wanted to say that earlier, but then I thought it would open up a can of worms, and I really needed time to process all of this, like a lot of people do when a situation like this happens," she added.
"I fully acknowledge that I acted inappropriately as a husband, father and principal at NBC,” he said. “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.”
Lauer noted he had remained silent to protect his family, but was speaking out to defend them.
A day earlier, a source told ET that Lauer is having a rough time dealing with the fallout of the ordeal, and divorce proceedings with wife, Annette Roque.
“Matt is finally coming to terms with the reality that his marriage is over and he is in bad shape,” the insider said. “He feels he lost everything important in his life overnight. He is embarrassed and ashamed."