- Matt Lauer came out with a stern letter Wednesday disputing sexual-misconduct allegations against him.
- Some of the language in his letter appears to be intentionally misleading to cast doubt on the women who have accused him of inappropriate behavior.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
As details about the rape allegation that got Matt Lauer fired from the “Today” show in 2017 were published for the first time on Tuesday by Variety, the former NBC News anchor responded with a stern statement denying any wrongdoing.
Not only did Lauer deny raping the former NBC News staffer Brooke Nevils, saying they had a sexual encounter at the Sochi Olympics that was “completely consensual,” but he also disputed another Variety report that came out the day he was sacked – which said he had a button under his office desk “that allowed him to lock his door from the inside” so he could “initiate inappropriate contact” with female employees in private.
Pay close attention to the language that Lauer uses here in his open letter:
“Despite numerous erroneous reports in the past, there was not a button in my office that could lock the door from the inside. There was no such mechanism. It didn’t exist. NBC confirmed this fact publicly following my termination.
“It would have been impossible to confine anyone in my office, for any purpose, and I have never attempted to make anyone feel as if they were confined in my office.”
Reading this, it sounds as if NBC refuted the reports of this button, but if you look at NBC’s statement, and other reporting in the wake of the scandal, it’s not the denial Lauer paints it as.
NBC released the results of its internal investigation into Lauer in May 2018, which said there’s a button common in “executive offices in multiple NBCUniversal facilities to provide an efficient way to close the door without getting up from the desk.”
“The button,” NBC continued, “releases a magnet that holds the door open. It does not lock the door from the inside.”
The Washington Post also looked into the button and, after talking to people familiar with 30 Rockefeller Center’s offices, learned that the button locked the door, but only from the outside, for situations such as a shooting.
This takes us back to the original Variety report, which didn’t necessarily say that Lauer was trapping women in his office. Rather, the button allowed him to sexually harass female staffers without the fear of someone walking in on him.
NBC didn’t deny the existence of such a button, just the claim the button could lock someone inside a room. In fact, the button locks people out.
Don’t let Lauer’s tricky language fool you. What he is saying here is a technicality. He could very well still have had a button that closed the door to his office; it just wouldn’t have been able to trap anyone inside. And whether women were actually locked in his office is beside the point. If you’re a woman alone in a meeting with a top male executive, and the door suddenly shuts behind you, it’s enough to make you feel powerless.
After receiving Lauer’s statement Wednesday morning, we followed up with his law firm for clarification on this point: Did he mean that he had no button in his office at all that could close a door? Or was he simply saying the button couldn’t lock anyone inside? So far, they haven’t gotten back to us. Lauer has hired Clare Locke, a law firm that specializes in media crisis and defamation.
Read Lauer’s letter in full below:
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