While speaking at the Dress for Success annual Women Who Inspire event in New York City on Wednesday, Couric — who hosted Today alongside Lauer for 15 years — opened up about the #MeToo movement and Lauer’s 2017 firing from the show.
“As you can imagine, I’ve thought a lot about this over the last two years because it has been, to use the phrase that many have used, a reckoning,” the journalist, 62, said, according to Variety. “It’s been painful for me on many levels, especially when it comes to understanding what was going on with Matt, who I think ultimately turned out to be two very different people, in terms of my relationship with him versus some of the other things that were going on.”
Couric added, “We need many more women in leadership positions in journalism and broadcast news. Things don’t really change unless you have a woman with real authority and decision-making opportunities, and I really do believe that the atmosphere of a company and the standards, they all come from the top.”
Couric spent 15 years co-hosting NBC’s Today show with Lauer, 61, but left in May 2006 to anchor the CBS Evening News.
“The accounts I’ve read and heard have been disturbing, distressing and disorienting and it’s completely unacceptable that any woman at the Today show experienced this kind of treatment,” she said.
“I had no idea this was going on during my tenure or after I left,” Couric continued. “I think I speak for many of my former colleagues when I say this was not the Matt we knew. Matt was a kind and generous colleague who treated me with respect … It’s still very upsetting. I really admire the way Savannah [Guthrie] and Hoda [Kotb] and the entire Today show staff have handled a very difficult situation.”
Couric’s comments on Wednesday came almost a month after Lauer was accused of raping an NBC News colleague. The accusation surfaced in an excerpt from Ronan Farrow‘s new book, Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators.
In the book, Brooke Nevils alleges that Lauer anally raped her in his hotel room at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. Nevils told Farrow she was “too drunk to consent” and also stated multiple times that she did not want to have anal intercourse.
She also states in the book that she had more sexual encounters with Lauer back in New York City, telling Farrow: “It was completely transactional. It was not a relationship.”
Lauer, who recently finalized his divorce from longtime wife Annette Roque, penned a lengthy letter in response, claiming the encounter was “extramarital, but consensual.” He said the encounter in Sochi was the beginning of his affair with Nevils and “the first of many sexual encounters between us over the next several months.”
Lauer, who pointed out what he claims are “contradictions” in Nevils’ story, concluded by stating that he has “never assaulted anyone or forced anyone to have sex. Period.”
In response to his open letter, Nevils slammed Lauer and called his note a “case study in victim-blaming.”
“There’s the Matt Lauer that millions of Americans watched on TV every morning for two decades, and there is the Matt Lauer who this morning attempted to bully a former colleague into silence,” she said in a statement. “I am not afraid of him now. Regardless of his threats, bullying, and the shaming and predatory tactics I knew he would (and now has) tried to use against me.”
In a statement read on-air on the Today show after Nevils’ rape accusation was first publicly reported, NBC News said, “Matt Lauer’s conduct was appalling, horrific and reprehensible, as we said at the time. That’s why he was fired within 24 hours of us first learning of the complaint. Our hearts break again for our colleague.”
In the wake of the allegations, Lauer has been keeping a low profile.
The ousted Today show anchor was photographed in late October grabbing fishing supplies from his boat in the Hamptons, where he has been living since he was first fired in November 2017 due to Nevils’ sexual misconduct complaint. He was also spotted picking up coffee in the Hamptons on Oct. 16.
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, please contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) or go to online.rainn.org.