A day after the TODAY show host was fired over a sexual harassment complaint, Matt Lauer apologized on Thursday morning, admitting there is "enough truth in these stories." But while his response went down the checklist of generic regretful statements that have become so familiar in the past months, there was a glaring problem with Lauer's response to the allegations against him.
"There are no words to express my sorrow and regret for the pain I have caused others by words and actions," his statement began. "To the people I have hurt, I am truly sorry. As I am writing this I realize the depth of the damage and disappointment I have left behind at home and at NBC."
NBC News announced Wednesday morning that Lauer was fired after the company received a "detailed complaint" of "inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace." NBC News chairman Andy Lack's statement explained that NBC was "presented with reason to believe this may not have been an isolated incident."
That night, Variety published multiple women's allegations against Lauer, including that he called a coworker into his office and allegedly proceeded to show her his penis. Variety also reported that he had a button installed that allowed him to lock the door from his desk without others noticing.
Although none of his accusers have revealed their identities, Variety's investigation details years of alleged sexual harassment and intimidation that impacted countless women within NBC. Herein lies the problem with his apology — Lauer's statement was more focused on how his actions affected NBC and his family than the women he allegedly harassed and took advantage of.
As author Alana Massey tweeted:
Imagine holding women hostage in your office to assault them, getting caught, and thinking it's your employer and your fans that deserve your apology most.
Sure, Lauer apologized to those he's hurt, but he simultaneously cast doubt on some of the allegations, claiming "some of what is being said about me is untrue or mischaracterized," and called the allegations "stories." The way he phrased his apology "to the people I have hurt," was also incredibly vague, leaving it up to interpretation whether he meant the women he allegedly harassed, or the coworkers and fans who were disappointed to learn he was an accused harasser. The word "women" didn't appear in his "apology" once, leaving the impression that he wasn't quite addressing the female employees accusing him of harassment.
On top of his general apology to "people," Lauer remained focused on his family.
I regret that my shame is now shared by the people I cherish dearly. ... I am blessed to be surrounded by the people I love. I thank them for their patience and grace.
Lauer's family deserved an apology — so did the women he allegedly harassed and admitted in part to doing so.
Any predator owes an apology to scores of people, but the victims come first. Not to mention, there's plenty of room in a formal statement for multiple apologies. The accused don't have to limit themselves to one "I'm sorry."
Like the many men forced to respond to sexual harassment and assault allegations in recent weeks, Lauer did the subtle dance of a somewhat-apologetic apology, only taking partial responsibility for his words and actions, and ruminating on his feelings.
Repairing the damage will take a lot of time and soul searching and I'm committed to beginning that effort. It is now my full time job.
Not once in his statement did Lauer say he shouldn't have done what he did; not once did Lauer say he wouldn't do it again; and not once did Lauer directly apologize to the women he acknowledges he hurt.