NBC fires Matt Lauer after complaint about ‘inappropriate sexual behavior’

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Matt Lauer was fired from NBC News on Wednesday after an employee filed a complaint about “inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace,” the network announced.

Savannah Guthrie made the announcement at the top of the “Today” show. Lauer has been the cornerstone of the program, one of the most profitable franchises on television, for two decades.

NBC News chairman Andrew Lack said in a memo to staff that it was the first complaint lodged against Lauer in his career at the network. But he said “we were also presented with reason to believe this may not have been an isolated incident.”

Lauer was informed of the network’s decision late Tuesday night, before he went to bed, according to a source with knowledge of the situation. Lauer was not immediately reachable for comment by CNN. An NBC News spokeswoman declined to comment about the details of the allegation.

Reporters for The New York Times had been investigating Lauer for several weeks, according to sources who had been contacted by the Times.

Lauer is the latest high-profile man in media to be brought down by allegations of inappropriate sexual behavior.

The torrent began when The New York Times and The New Yorker reported on allegations against the Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.

Since then, actors Kevin Spacey and Louis C.K. have been suspended or removed from projects after allegations against them became public. And other prominent journalists, including Mark Halperin of NBC and Michael Oreskes of NPR, have been fired or suspended from their jobs.

Related: CBS News and PBS fire Charlie Rose

The firing of Lauer removes one of the most recognizable personalities on television, and at a time when morning news programs are increasingly important to network news divisions.

Guthrie said she was informed just moments before going on the air.

“This is a sad morning at ‘Today’ and NBC News,” she said. “As I’m sure you can understand, we are devastated. I’m heartbroken for Matt.”

Guthrie also said she was heartbroken for the woman who accused Lauer of misconduct, noting “it’s long overdue” that women feel comfortable coming forward against abusive men.

Hoda Kotb, on the set with Guthrie, said she has known Lauer for years and “loved him as a friend and a colleague.”

“It’s hard to reconcile the man who walks in every day” with the person who was identified in the complaint, she said.

Lauer, 59, was named a co-anchor of “Today” in January 1997 after three years as the newsreader.