In September, Matt Lauer sat down for a one-on-one interview with Bill O’Reilly, five months after the former Fox News anchor’s unexpected dismissal from the network.
O’Reilly had been fired in April after a New York Times investigation made public a string of settlements paid on his behalf to several women who came forward with complaints of sexual harassment and misconduct.
Now, just two months since their televised sit down, both Lauer and O’Reilly—the second and third highest paid in media in 2016, respectively—are out of a job for the same reason.
NBC News chairman Andy Lack said in a statement this morning that Lauer was out after the network received “a detailed complaint from a colleague about inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace” on Monday, adding the company had reason to believe “this may not have been an isolated incident.”
An investigation published this afternoon in Variety detailed several allegations of impropriety and harassment by Lauer, including an instance when the former Today co-anchor allegedly summoned a female employee to his office, showed her his penis, and then “reprimanded her for not engaging in a sexual act” when she declined to do anything with it.
Amid these allegations, Lauer’s interview with O’Reilly has taken on new meaning. In the September exchange, Lauer grills O’Reilly on why the network would have ousted him if the allegations against him had no merit, saying you don’t “let your number one guy go” unless there’s sufficient reason—an assessment O’Reilly disputed. “It was a hit job,” O’Reilly said, adding that “a lot of business things were in play” on the part of the network.
Lauer also asked O’Reilly directly whether he ever sent a lewd text or email to another employee, actions Lauer himself is now accused of. From the Variety story:
Despite being married, Lauer was fixated on women, especially their bodies and looks, according to more than 10 accounts from current and former employees. He was known for making lewd comments verbally or over text messages. He once made a suggestive reference to a colleague’s performance in bed and compared it to how she was able to complete her job, according to witnesses to the exchange. For Lauer, work and sex were intertwined.
In a particularly tense moment, Lauer presses O’Reilly to imagine the bravery it must have taken his female accusers to come foward with accusations against him.
“Think about those… women and what they did,” Lauer said. “They came forward and filed complaints against the biggest star at the network they worked at. Think of how intimidating that must have been, how nerve-racking that must have been. Doesn’t that tell you how strongly they felt about the way they were treated?”
Think about those women, indeed.