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.
Notice a couple big caveats. NBC no longer asserts that Lauer was never the subject of a grievance but that “current” management was not “made aware” of one. The network is pleading ignorance while allowing that some women, at some time, might have complained to someone, after all.
Even this modified version of the we-didn't-know defense could prove difficult to execute, however, as some of NBC's own stars reveal degrees of awareness.
Megyn Kelly, new to the network this year, told Business Insider on Wednesday that she “had heard rumors about Matt, but that's all they were.”
“I have to say that when this story broke, to be very honest, I was not shocked,” Mika Brzezinski said Thursday on “Morning Joe.”
Turning to co-host Joe Scarborough, Brzezinski added, “I even remember you coming from some event where it was the joke of the day.”
Scarborough then shared his recollection of an event at the Friars Club in New York, where Lauer was roasted: “There were, like, 500 to a thousand people in the audience — like, the most powerful people in media — and everybody that came up were making fun of Matt Lauer, not pushing himself on people, but the whole theme was he does his show, and then he has sex with people — with employees. Was this whispered behind closed doors? No, it was shouted from the mountaintops, and everybody laughed about it.”
Willie Geist, who worked with Lauer on “Today,” chimed in: “I think there's a big leap from those jokes that were being made — I wasn't there; I didn't hear them — but about fooling around or whatever to those horrific accounts that we read about yesterday. . . . The details of the Variety story and the New York Times report and maybe more that are coming out are so appalling and so disgusting and so disappointing to a person that we knew, professionally, sitting on a set that I can't believe what I'm hearing, and I can't believe what I'm reading. Maybe I should have been able to believe.”
Geist's point seemed to be that there is a difference between an awareness of consensual affairs and knowledge of abuse. That's true only to a point. As a former NBC producer put it to Variety, “there were a lot of consensual relationships, but that's still a problem because of the power [Lauer] held.”
The reflections of NBC personalities suggest that network executives were, at minimum, extremely incurious about whether Lauer's widely known reputation for playing the field might indicate a more troubling pattern.