- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Matt Lauer’s firing for what NBC said was “inappropriate sexual behavior” with a colleague stunned viewers Wednesday, rocked the network and made the “Today” show host the best-known figure in America brought down so far by misconduct accusations sweeping the industry in recent weeks.

Also, former “Prairie Home Companion” host Garrison Keillor was cut loose by Minnesota Public Radio over an accusation of “inappropriate behavior.” Mr. Keillor, 75, said he inadvertently put his hand on a woman’s bare back in an attempt to console her.

Mr. Lauer has long been one of the most-liked and highest-paid figures in the TV news industry, and his fall startled many of the roughly 4 million viewers who start their day with the NBC News show.

Network news chief Andrew Lack said in a memo to the staff that NBC received a complaint about Mr. Lauer’s behavior on Monday and determined it violated company standards. NBC said the misconduct started when Mr. Lauer and a network employee were at the Sochi Olympics in 2014 and continued beyond that assignment.

Mr. Lack said it was the first complaint ever lodged against Mr. Lauer, but “we were also presented with reason to believe this may not have been an isolated incident.”

According to several publications, it wasn’t.

On Wednesday afternoon, Variety published a story it had been working on for months that detailed how Mr. Lauer had exposed himself to female employees; gave a colleague a sex toy as a present, including an explicit note about how he wanted to use it on her; and could lock his office door using a button installed under his desk. Variety talked with three women who identified themselves as victims of sexual harassment by Mr. Lauer.

Mr. Lauer, 59, becomes the second morning host in a week to lose his job over sexual misconduct accusations. CBS fired Charlie Rose after several women who worked for him complained about his behavior.

Messages to Lauer and his agent were not immediately returned, and the network would not say whether he denied or admitted to any wrongdoing. He is married with three children.

He joins a lengthening list of media figures felled by sexual misconduct accusations this year. Besides Mr. Rose, they include Mr. Lauer’s NBC News colleague Mark Halperin, Fox News prime-time host Bill O’Reilly and National Public Radio newsroom chief Michael Oreskes. The New York Times suspended White House correspondent Glenn Thrush last week.

Ari Wilkenfeld, the attorney for Mr. Lauer’s accuser, praised NBC for acting “quickly and responsibly” in response to the morning host’s “egregious acts of sexual harassment and misconduct.” The lawyer did not identify his client.

At NBC, Mr. Lauer’s former “Today” colleagues, Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb, announced the firing on the show Wednesday morning shortly after they received the information.

Ms. Guthrie appeared to fight back tears as she called Lauer her friend who is beloved by many at NBC and said she was “heartbroken for my colleague who came forward to tell her story and any other women who have their own stories to tell.”

“How do you reconcile your love for someone with the revelation that they have behaved badly? I don’t know the answer to that,” she said. “But I do know that this reckoning that so many organizations have been going through is important, it’s long overdue, and it must result in workplaces where all women, all people, feel safe and respected.”

Natalie Morales, a former “Today” show colleague who left the show for “Access Hollywood” last year, said she was in shock about the story. She referred to stories that said she and Mr. Lauer had an affair, which they both denied.

“I have personally dealt with rumors in the past few years that were hurtful to me and to my family,” she said. “They diminished my hard work. I’ve addressed these rumors head-on in the past. It’s not the story today.”

An immediate challenge is filling a giant hole on a show that has long been the most lucrative for NBC News. One potential replacement, Willie Geist, on Wednesday called Mr. Lauer someone “I have always looked up to in the business, and he taught me a lot.”

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