Matt Lauer, the longtime host of NBC's morning Today show, was abruptly fired this week over a "detailed" allegation of sexual harassment. After he was let go, several more allegations have been made public; Lauer issued an apology, but said some of the reports about his behavior are "untrue or mischaracterized." And according to Page Six, Lauer's lawyers are seeking the $30 million from NBC that's left on the former NBC star's two-year contract with the network.
Update: Lauer will not receive his $30 million payout after all, Page Six reported. The network president, Noah Oppenheim, reportedly told angry employees at a meeting that there won't be any negotiations with Lauer's legal team for a payout.
Earlier: Lauer's reported annual salary was $20 million to $25 million per year, and his most recent contract doesn't expire until June 2019. That comes out to roughly $30 million that Lauer's lawyers reportedly say the network would owe him.
Others argue that the reported payout is probably not going to happen. A "TV insider" told Page Six that Lauer's contract included what's known as a morality clause — a stipulation that employee behavior that embarrasses or otherwise makes the company look bad can result in immediate and uncompensated employment termination.
“There is no way Matt is getting paid. There has been an irrevocable breach of Matt’s contract, there is a moral clause that says if he brings the company into disrepute — which he clearly has — NBC can terminate his employment immediately without pay and they do not have to pay out his contract,” the source said.
Lauer's ouster from NBC seemed to take many in the media by surprise, including two of his Today show colleagues, Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kobt. Their emotional announcement of Lauer's departure was the first public revelation of the allegation against him. Guthrie read on-air from a statement sent to staff by NBC News Chairman Andy Lack, stating: "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."
In the ensuing days, more allegations have been leveled at Lauer. After a two-month investigation conducted by Variety, the magazine published several claims of inappropriate conduct on the part of Lauer, from allegedly exposing himself to a female employee to gifting a co-worker with a sex toy accompanied by a note explaining how he'd like to use it on her. Variety reported the stories of three women who wished to remain anonymous; the stories were confirmed by Variety in interviews with friends and colleagues of the unnamed women who came forward. Lauer has not yet commented specifically on the Variety report.
And while NBC said the "detailed allegation" in their Wednesday announcement was the first complaint filed against Lauer in his "over 20 years" with the network, Page Six cited sources who dispute that claim. A current Today show staffer told the outlet, "Everybody at NBC knew about Matt Lauer’s sexually inappropriate behavior — and knew not to talk about it.” A former female employee on the Today staff told Page Six, "The most horrible thing was that he [Lauer] made it clear that if they ever spoke out or crossed him, they would be fired from the show, negative stories leaked about them, and their careers would be destroyed."
Multiple unnamed sources, described as both current and former Today show employees, alleged that complaints about Lauer were "brushed under the carpet." Another source described the Today show as "a total boys' club."
NBC producers and executives maintain they did not know of Lauer's behavior prior to receiving the complaint filed Monday night.
“There was never a suggestion of that kind of deviant, predatory behavior, not even a whisper of it,” Jeff Zucker said when asked about Lauer at the Business Insider IGNITION 2017 conference. Zucker previously worked as NBC News chief.
NBC also issued a statement saying: “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."
Lauer is only the most recent in a growing list of powerful men unseated by allegations of sexual harassment or assault. Whether or not NBC will pay him the remaining $30 million on his contract remains to be seen.