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Matt Lauer fired from NBC's 'Today' show over sexual harassment allegations

FILE PHOTO: Host Matt Lauer from NBC listens as Hillary Clinton speaks at a forum on national security and veterans’ issues at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York, Sept. 7, 2016. Doug Mills/Copyright 2017 The New York Times

NBC News said Wednesday that it has fired Matt Lauer over "inappropriate sexual behavior," making the "Today" show star the latest high-profile man to become embroiled in workplace harassment allegations.

In a staff memo, NBC News chairman Andrew Lack said the network received "a detailed" complaint about Lauer Monday night. "It represented, after serious review, a clear violation of our company's standards. As a result, we've decided to terminate his employment."

Lack added: "While it is the first complaint about his behavior in the over twenty years he's been at NBC News, we were also presented with reason to believe this may not have been an isolated incident."

Lauer, 59, joined "Today" in 1994 as its news anchor. He became co-host of the morning program with Katie Couric in 1997 after Bryant Gumbel stepped down.

His current co-host, Savannah Guthrie, read Lack's statement on the air.

Lauer is among one of many whose careers have been hit by harassment allegations in the weeks since Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein was accused by numerous women of sexual assault. Last week, Lauer's morning rival on CBS, Charlie Rose, was fired after eight women told The Washington Post that he had acted inappropriately toward them over a number of years.

The post-Weinstein wave has brought down figures in the news, entertainment and political fields, and renewed discussion about allegations against President Donald Trump first raised when he was the Republican candidate for the office last year.

The news of Lauer's firing prompted an early-morning tweet from Trump: "Wow, Matt Lauer was just fired from NBC for 'inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace,'" he wrote. "But when will the top executives at NBC & Comcast be fired for putting out so much Fake News. Check out Andy Lack's past!"

Trump was the star of the long-running NBC reality programs "The Apprentice" and "Celebrity Apprentice" before announcing his entry into politics in 2015. During his tenure on the program, cast and crew members said he made inappropriate comments to women. One of the contestants on the program, Summer Zervos, has sued him for defamation for his comments stemming from her allegation that he harassed her during production.

The "Today" staff broke the news about Lauer, marking one of the few instances in which a news organization was first to report on the misconduct of one of its own employees.

"All we can say is we are heartbroken," said Guthrie, who appeared to be near tears when she disclosed Lauer's firing. "I'm heartbroken. ... How do you reconcile your love for someone with the revelation that they have behaved badly?"

She said she was "heartbroken for the brave colleague who came forward to tell her story." Lauer's accuser has not been identified.

After making the announcement, Guthrie turned to co-host Hoda Kotb, who was filling in for Lauer, and grabbed her hand in a gesture of solidarity and support.

Weather forecaster Al Roker, who was also clearly moved by the news, told viewers, "I'm still trying to process the news."

In his staff memo, 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."

NBC had no announcement about who would replace Lauer on "Today," the daily, four-hour news and discussion program that is the network's most famous news program and its most profitable.

In addition to Lauer and Rose, prominent TV news figures who've been fired for alleged harassment include Bill O'Reilly and Roger Ailes of Fox News and political commentator Mark Halperin, who served as an analyst for NBC News and MSNBC.

Author Information: Paul Farhi is The Washington Post's media reporter.

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