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NBC Fires Matt Lauer for Inappropriate sexual Behavior Allegations; Trump Retweets Far-Right, Anti-Muslim Videos; NYT: Trump Still Peddling Conspiracy Theories. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired November 29, 2017 - 09:00   ET


[09:00:16] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: What a morning, a morning of change. In fact, the change in mornings themselves. It may be much bigger than that.

Hello, everyone. John Berman here. The breaking news, "Today" show co-anchor, Matt Lauer, one of the icons of morning television, was just fired by NBC News for what the network calls inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace. The news broke just minutes before the "Today" show went to air. The host really seemed as stunned as the rest of us.


SUSANNAH GUTHRIE, CO-ANCHOR, NBC'S TODAY SHOW: We just learned this moments ago. Just this morning. As I am sure you can imagine we are devastated and we are still processing all of this. And I will tell you right now we do not know more than what I just shared with you, but we will be covering this story as reporters, as journalists.

I am sure we will be learning more details in the hours and days to come and we promise we will share that with you.

And Hoda, I mean, you know, for the moment all we can say is that we are heartbroken. I am heartbroken for Matt. He is my dear, dear friend and my partner, and he is beloved by many, many people here. And I'm heartbroken for the brave colleague who came forward to tell her story, and any the other women who have their own stories to tell, and we are grappling with a dilemma that so many people have faced these past few weeks.

How do you reconcile your love for someone with the revelation that they have behaved badly, and I don't know the answer to that.


BERMAN: So a great, graceful, important statement from Savannah Guthrie there.

Brian Stelter, senior media reporter, host of "RELIABLE SOURCES," joins me now.

Brian, what happened?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: NBC received a sexual complaint against Matt Lauer on Monday night. It investigated that complaint on Tuesday. On Tuesday night before he went to bed Lauer was told he was fired and then overnight Savannah Guthrie, we just saw, was woken up and told the news.

Here's a part of the statement from NBC News chairman, Andy Lack. He addressed this in a memo to staff. He said, "On Monday night we received this detailed complaint from a colleague about inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace by Matt Lauer. It represented, after a serious review, a clear violation of our company's standards. As a result we decided to terminate his employment. While it is the first complaint about his behavior in the over 20 years he's been at NBC News, we were also presented with reason to believe this may not have been an isolated incident."

The memo concluded by saying, "We are deeply saddened by this turn of events but will face it together as a news organization, and do it in as transparent a manner as we can."

The key part of that statement, John, is the part about not an isolated incident. "The New York Times" and "Variety" magazine had been investigating alleged misconduct by Lauer for several weeks. The editor of "Variety" says especially for two months, that would go all the way back to when the Harvey Weinstein story broke in October. And when this dam started to crack, all these allegations against powerful men in Washington, New York, Hollywood, and elsewhere.

We don't know the details or the substance of these allegations against Lauer. I think "The New York Times" will be publishing a story later today. So it's a little bit of a mystery right now about what NBC learned. And by the way, we have no comment yet from Lauer. We've been reaching out to him and his representatives and he has not weighed in yet.

BERMAN: All right. No details, again, on what exactly was alleged to have occurred. And so I'm not going to ask you about that, but I do want to note, Matt Lauer hosted the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade --

STELTER: Last week.

BERMAN: On Thursday.

STELTER: And when I watched that broadcast, I was thinking to myself this is an awkward situation for Lauer and his co-host, Savannah Guthrie, because both of them knew that these stories were in the works. Their colleagues have been getting phone calls from reporters who have been investigating Lauer's history. So NBC was in a very delicate situation here. They say they had never received any formal complaints about Lauer but they knew reporters were digging, looking into his past.

So they kept him on the air until Tuesday morning but once this complaint was received by the HR Department and it was investigated on Tuesday. And I think what we see here is something kind of knew in the past eight weeks of this phenomenon, this tipping point phenomenon, these allegations against powerful men in many industries, we haven't seen a company try to get out ahead of it the way we did today with NBC.

BERMAN: Brian Stelter, thanks so much for this discussion.

I want to talk about exactly that point. Joining me now is CNN legal analyst, Areva Martin.

Areva, thanks so much for being with us. What does it tell you that NBC News acted as quickly as it did based on this report that it got, this complaint from a colleague about inappropriate sexual behavior? What does this tell you about the nature of that claim?

AREVA MARTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: John, it tells me two things. It tells me that the allegation must be incredibly serious. That this goes beyond maybe a casual comment, maybe even beyond some kind of touching, and something very serious in terms of the actions that were alleged in that complaint. And it also tells me that there was corroboration. That they were able to corroborate the allegations that were made.

[09:05:02] So these just weren't statements made by one person but in their review of the statements, they were able to talk to other coworkers. Other evidence came forward that substantiated the claims that were made.

It's a very big deal for a network to fire its most powerful on-air talent, and arguably Matt Lauer is just that or was just that for NBC, so it tells me the allegations had to be incredibly serious and that there was support for the allegations.

BERMAN: And it's also possible, and again we don't know, it's also possible that he admitted to whatever the woman said happened or corroborated it himself. We just don't know.

For a company, Areva, to make a decision like this, are there legal implications? Does it do it because of the law and legal jeopardy or does it because of public relations or both?

MARTIN: I think it's both, John. I think the company knows, as we have seen with other companies, there are possible lawsuits and these lawsuits can be very expensive. You can be looking at a seven-figure settlement in jury verdicts if the claim can be substantiated and proven in court. So companies know that they face legal jeopardy and that there are civil lawsuits to follow. And they also know from the -- just the barrage of claims that have come forward that this is a public relations nightmare.

There can be call for advertisers to stop advertising on particular programs, viewers to stop watching a particular show because one of its main anchors has been accused of sexual harassment. So the company has to juggle a couple of things. The legal liability, plus the public relations nightmare.

And I also want to point out one thing, Companies don't have to wait for women to come forward. Companies have an affirmative obligation to keep the workplace safe, so if there are innuendos, if there's gossip, if there's talk in the workplace that someone has been engaged in inappropriate conduct that company has an absolute duty to launch its own internal investigation so we don't have to wait or companies don't have to wait for women, in this case, we believe a woman to come forward, they should be launching their own investigations.

BERMAN: Areva, stand by because I have much more I want to ask you. But also joining us now CNN contributor Bianna Golodryga and Alisyn Camerota, co-anchor of "NEW DAY."

Alisyn, I should note, you obviously have your own story to tell when it comes to sexual harassment in the workplace and I think that's important. There's a TV side to this and there's a societal side to this. And I think society, as much as we all love TV, is more important here. And whenever anyone who was at the top of their industry, which Matt Lauer is, falls for something like this, it tells you something, Alisyn.

Does this tell us now in this moment that women do feel empowered to come forward and tell their stories?

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Absolutely. There's a groundswell of women coming forward. I mean, I would -- I would rewind the clock back to Roger Ailes and what happened a year and a half ago. And I feel today exactly the same way I felt that day, shocked but not surprised. You know, there -- like sometimes you hear about these things, sometimes you hear that there might have been impropriety of some kind, but then when it happens it's seismic.

And so what happens when somebody as big as Roger Ailes, or then Bill O'Reilly, or then Charlie Rose, or Harvey Weinstein, or Matt Lauer, it does make a groundswell of women who have been harboring secrets feel, you know what, maybe I can tell somebody and maybe I can come forward.

BERMAN: And again, I still think Matt Lauer is still different than all of those people who are huge in and of their own right.

CAMEROTA: I do, too. He's a household name.


BERMAN: I think Matt Lauer --

CAMEROTA: I do too.

BERMAN: Olympics, Thanksgiving parade. Everything.

Bianna, I watched -- I can't remember, the time flies so fast, but you did the lead report for CBS News the morning that Charlie Rose left.