HA­RASS­MENT

The Columbus Dispatch - - Na­tion&world -

and for­mer staffers who asked to re­main anony­mous.

Among other things, Va­ri­ety re­ported al­le­ga­tions that Lauer once gave a col­league a sex toy with an ex­plicit note about how he wanted to use it on her; that he ex­posed him­self to an­other fe­male co-worker; that he would ques­tion fe­male pro­duc­ers about their sex lives; and that he would talk about which co-hosts he would like to sleep with.

Ari Wilken­feld, the at­tor­ney for Lauer’s ac­cuser, praised NBC for act­ing “quickly and re­spon­si­bly” in re­sponse to the morn­ing host’s “egre­gious acts of sex­ual ha­rass­ment and mis­con­duct.” The lawyer did not iden­tify his client.

Mes­sages to Lauer and his agent were not im­me­di­ately re­turned, and NBC would not say whether he de­nied or ad­mit­ted to any wrong­do­ing. He is mar­ried with three chil­dren.

Ear­lier Wed­nes­day, it was left to Lauer’s shaken “To­day” col­leagues, Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb, to break the news to view­ers at the top of the morn­ing’s show.

Guthrie ap­peared to fight back tears as she called Lauer her friend who is beloved by many at NBC. She said she was “heart­bro­ken for my col­league who came for­ward to tell her story and any other women who have their own stories to tell.”

“How do you rec­on­cile your love for some­one with the rev­e­la­tion that they have be­haved badly? I don’t know the an­swer to that,” she said. “But I do know that this reck­on­ing that so many or­ga­ni­za­tions have been go­ing through is im­por­tant, it’s long over­due, and it must re­sult in work­places where all women, all peo­ple, feel safe and re­spected.”

Natalie Mo­rales, a for­mer “To­day” show col­league who left the show for “Ac­cess Hol­ly­wood” last year, said she was in shock about the story. She re­ferred to stories that said she and Lauer had an af­fair, which they both de­nied.

“I have per­son­ally dealt with ru­mors in the past few years that were hurt­ful to me and to my fam­ily,” she said. “They di­min­ished my hard work. I’ve ad­dressed these ru­mors head-on in the past. It’s not the story to­day.”

Lauer has es­sen­tially been the king of tele­vi­sion morn­ing news since first be­ing paired with Katie Couric on “To­day” in 1997. For many years, “To­day” was the un­ques­tioned rat­ings leader, un­til it was eclipsed by ABC’s “Good Morn­ing Amer­ica” fol­low­ing the ugly 2012 fir­ing of Lauer’s co-host Ann Curry.

[CRAIG RUT­TLE/THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS]

A for­lorn-look­ing Savannah Guthrie looks out the win­dow while on the set of the “To­day” show Wed­nes­day, a day when she had to an­nounce the fir­ing of her co-host, Matt Lauer.

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