Lawyer for Matt Lauer accuser praises her courage as media world reacts to firing

Last Updated Nov 29, 2017 6:20 PM EST

NEW YORK -- The lawyer for a woman who made a detailed complaint about Matt Lauer is praising NBC for acting "quickly and responsibly" to fire the "Today" show host for alleged sexual abuse. 

NBC News fired Lauer for what it said Wednesday was "inappropriate sexual behavior" with a colleague, making him perhaps the most familiar figure in America brought down so far by the misconduct allegations that have swept through Hollywood and the media over the past two months.

Ari Wilkenfeld, the accuser's attorney, said in a statement that representatives from NBC's Human Resources Department met with him and his unnamed client Monday night, when the woman gave her account of "egregious acts of sexual harassment and misconduct" by Lauer. 

By Wednesday morning, NBC had investigated and terminated Lauer. In a statement, NBC News chairman Andy Lack said the behavior represented "a clear violation" of the company's standards. 

Wilkenfeld said while he was "impressed" by NBC's response, he was "awed" by the courage his client displayed in voicing her grievance.

She did so "without making any demands other than asking the company do the right thing," he said. "This is how the system should work."

Lauer's former "Today" show colleagues, Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb, announced the firing on the show shortly after being told themselves. Lauer had been told of his dismissal on Tuesday night.  

Since Lauer's firing, new reports have surfaced about other women alleging sexual misconduct by Lauer. The New York Times reported that two more women came forward to NBC News with complaints about Lauer, while Variety published a report detailing alleged misconduct by Lauer in the workplace. 

APTOPIX Sexual Misconduct Lauer

Co-anchors Hoda Kotb, left, and Savannah Guthrie embrace on the set of the "Today" show Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2017, in New York, after NBC News fired host Matt Lauer. NBC News announced Wednesday that Lauer was fired for "inappropriate sexual behavior."

Craig Ruttle / AP

Reaction to Lauer's abrupt dismissal poured in from his former colleagues Wednesday. 

Guthrie fought back tears Wednesday morning while calling Lauer "my friend and my partner," saying she also felt "heartbroken" for "the brave colleague who came forward to tell her story." Kotb, who replaced Lauer in the anchor chair for the morning, added that she loved Lauer "as a friend and as a colleague" and said it was "hard to reconcile what we are hearing with the man who we know." 

Weatherman Al Roker was also visibly upset on-air, saying he was "still trying to process the news" while giving his report.

Opening her hour of NBC's "Today" show Wednesday, Megyn Kelly replayed the pained announcement from two hours earlier. But she said what is missed is the pain on the faces of those with the courage to report their harassment. She said it's a "terrifying thing to do." 

Kelly said it's a sign of progress that more and more women are speaking up. Recalling her own harassment that led to her departure from Fox News Channel earlier this year, Kelly says she learned that "a news organization is bigger than any one person."

Willie Geist, a co-anchor at MSNBC and anchor of Sunday "Today," said on MSNBC that bringing up the allegations to NBC managers "took some real courage." He called Lauer "the most powerful person at NBC News." Geist said he didn't know any details about the allegation. 

Geist said he "loves" Lauer and considers him a friend, but "I don't want to lose sight of a person who took a pretty big leap and stepped out on a ledge to take on someone of Matt's stature."

Deborah Norville, the longtime "Inside Edition" anchor, said she was "stunned" to hear of Lauer's firing. She said it's upsetting to see yet another fellow journalist brought down by scandal. 

But Norville, herself a past "Today" host before Lauer joined the broadcast, noted that no profession is immune to sexual harassment, as recent events have demonstrated. 

She expressed hope that other women who've been harmed will see NBC's swift action as confirmation that credible accounts of such misconduct will be heeded.