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After Matt Lauer firing, NBC internal investigation finds no culture of sexual harassment in news division

NBC's Matt Lauer inquiry

NEW YORK -- NBC has concluded in an internal investigation ordered last fall after Matt Lauer's firing that it doesn't believe there is a culture of sexual harassment in its news division. The network also said that more needs to be done to ensure employees know how to report complaints about misconduct and not fear retaliation. 

To that end, NBC News Chairman Andy Lack said Wednesday that he's creating a way for employees to make such complaints to a figure outside the company.

Lauer, the former "Today" show host, was fired in November after it was found he had an inappropriate sexual relationship with another much more junior NBC employee. Three additional women subsequently made complaints about Lauer. 

A report on the investigation's findings says 68 people were interviewed in the probe, which aimed to determine whether news division leadership "addresses inappropriate workplace behavior promptly and appropriately" and if there is a need to improve when it comes to workplace climate and the willingness of employees to come forward with concerns. Those interviewed had been identified by investigators as "possibly" having relevant information.

It also outlined events leading up the investigation, saying a woman emailed someone in Human Resources on November 22 of last year with a "serious concern to report." In a subsequent interview, the woman claimed Lauer had engaged in inappropriate sexual behavior with her on several occasions in 2014 in the workplace, the report states.

Days later, on November 28, Lauer admitted in an internal interview to "engaging in sexual activity with the complainant," according to the report. He was fired, and within the next two weeks, NBCUniversal received information about three more women who claimed Lauer "engaged in inappropriate sexual behavior" with them in the workplace in 2007, 2001 and 2000.

The report on the findings, which was shared by NBC News, states:

  • "We found no evidence indicating that any NBC News or Today Show leadership, News HR or others in positions of authority in the News Division received any complaints about Lauer's workplace behavior prior to November 27, 2017. All four women who came forward confirmed that they did not tell their direct manager or anyone else in a position of authority about their sexual encounters with Lauer. Current and former members of NBC News and Today Show leadership, as well as News HR, stated that they had never received a complaint about inappropriate workplace behavior by Lauer, and we did not find any contrary evidence."
  • "The investigation team does not believe that there is a widespread or systemic pattern of behavior that violates Company policy or a culture of harassment in the News Division."
  • "A number of individuals interviewed said that Lauer could be flirtatious, would frequently make jokes, some with sexual overtones, and would openly engage in sexually-oriented banter in the workplace."
  • "Most witnesses had positive things to say about Lauer's demeanor in the workplace. Lauer also was described as a very private person who acted as a friend and professional mentor to both men and women alike over decades at the Today Show."
  • "Although the witnesses interviewed were generally aware of official Company channels to raise workplace issues, a number of them said they had concerns about reporting inappropriate workplace conduct to News HR, including: a lack of familiarity with News HR representatives; a fear of retaliation; a belief that complaints cannot or will not be kept confidential; and a lack of a private environment in which to raise issues, because News HR sits in glass-walled offices among other News Division employees. Similar concerns regarding a lack of anonymity and fears of retaliation were raised about reporting complaints directly to management."

The report also said investigators looked into a "button" in Lauer's office. Variety reported in November that Lauer had a button under his desk that allowed him to lock the office door from the inside. Two women who said they were sexually harassed by Lauer told Variety this "allowed him to welcome female employees and initiate inappropriate contact while knowing nobody could walk in on him."

"According to the NBCUniversal facilities team, the button is a commonly available feature in executive offices in multiple NBCUniversal facilities to provide an efficient way to close the door without getting up from the desk," the NBC report states. "The button releases a magnet that holds the door open. It does not lock the door from the inside." 

NBC has received some criticism for not allowing outside investigators to look into its workplace culture. 

In January, in her first television interview since leaving NBC, former "Today" show host Ann Curry spoke out about Lauer's firing and the climate at NBC during her time there.

"I can say that I would be surprised if -- if -- many women did not understand that there was a climate of verbal harassment that existed. I think it'd be surprising if someone said that they didn't see that. So it was p -- a verbal -- sexual --," she said on "CBS This Morning." 

"She just said that verbal sexual harassment was pervasive," "CBS This Morning" co-host Norah O'Donnell said. 

"Yeah," Curry replied. 

"At -- at NBC at the time when you were there?" O'Donnell said. 

"I don't wanna cause more pain. But no, I'm -- you are asking me a very direct question. I'm an honest person. I wanna tell you that it was. Yes. Period," Curry replied.   

Ann Curry says "verbal sexual" harassment was pervasive at NBC

After he was fired, Lauer apologized.

"There are no words to express my sorrow and regret for the pain I have caused others by words and actions. To the people I have hurt, I am truly sorry.…as I am writing this I realize the depth of the damage and disappointment I have left behind at home and at NBC," Lauer said in a statement.

"Some of what is being said about me is untrue or mischaracterized, but there is enough truth in these stories to make me feel embarrassed and ashamed," Lauer said. "I regret that my shame is now shared by the people I cherish dearly…repairing the damage will take a lot of time and soul searching and I'm committed to beginning that effort. It is now my full time job."