Jeff Zucker, the president of CNN and the former executive producer of the “Today’’ show, said Thursday that reports of sexual misconduct by Matt Lauer were “incredibly disturbing’’ and that some of the behavior being described was “deviant” and “predatory.” He said he had no knowledge of inappropriate actions by Mr. Lauer when he was a top executive at NBC.
Mr. Zucker made the remarks at Business Insider’s Ignition conference in Manhattan during an interview with Mike Shields, the advertising editor of Business Insider. Mr. Shields opened the discussion with a question on many people’s minds: How much did Mr. Zucker know about Mr. Lauer, the longstanding host of the “Today” show who was fired on Wednesday after a woman accused him of sexual misconduct?
“No one ever brought to me, or to my knowledge, there was never, there was never a complaint about Matt,” Mr. Zucker said. “There was never a suggestion of that kind of deviant, predatory behavior. Not even a whisper of it, nothing like that.”
Mr. Lauer’s firing was announced by Andrew Lack, the NBC News chairman, who told staff members that until Monday the network had never received a complaint about Mr. Lauer in his more than 20 years at the network. That time span covered part of Mr. Zucker’s tenure at the network, both as an executive producer of the “Today” show from 1992 to 2000 and through his rise to become the president and chief executive officer of NBCUniversal.
Later on Wednesday, after Variety published a report saying that some women had complained to NBC executives about Mr. Lauer’s behavior but that nothing was done about it, the network issued another statement.
“We can say unequivocally, that, prior to Monday night, current NBC News management was never made aware of any complaints about Matt Lauer’s conduct,” the statement said.
Mr. Lauer is the latest high-profile media figure to face a swift fall from grace amid accusations of sexual harassment and sexual misconduct.
During a meeting with staff members on Wednesday, Mr. Lack said that a woman had come forward to accuse Mr. Lauer of sexual misconduct during the 2014 Sochi Olympics. Later, NBC confirmed that it had received two additional complaints about Mr. Lauer’s behavior, including a woman who told The New York Times that Mr. Lauer had sexually assaulted her in his office in 2001.