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Reports: More Women Accuse Matt Lauer of Sexual Misconduct; "Art of the Deal" Co-Author Questions Trump's Grip on Reality. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired November 30, 2017 - 06:30   ET


[06:30:00] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: "New York Times" and "Variety" detailing disturbing allegations of misconduct against him from women on his staff.

CNN senior media correspondent Brian Stelter joins us now with more.

Brian, this is so much worse than any of us on the outside suspected.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And it explains partly why NBC acted so quickly after learning on an allegation on Monday night. Lauer was fired Tuesday night. Now, we have a better idea of why.


SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: This is a sad morning here at "Today" and at NBC news.

STELTER (voice-over): Alarming new allegations emerging against Matt Lauer. A former NBC employee telling the "New York Times" that in 2001, Lauer summoned her to his office, locked the door and sexually assaulted her. She says she never reported the incident because she felt ashamed and feared losing her job.

"Variety" magazine reporting accounts of three men who say Lauer harassed them. One says the veteran "Today Show" anchor gave her a sex toy and detailed in a note how he wanted to use it on her.

Another employee says he exposed himself in his office and reprimanded her for not engaging in a sexual act. Ten current and former employees telling "Variety" that Lauer was fixated on women, especially their bodies and looks, and was known for making lewd comments verbally or over text messages.

The big question is, who knew what, when?

"Variety" quoted several staffers who said they tried to alert executives about Lauer's behavior. In response to that, NBC says: We can say up equivocally that prior to Monday night, current NBC News management was never made aware of any complaints about Matt Lauer's conduct.

NBC has known that damaging stories were coming. In a staff memo, NBC News chief Andy Lack alluded to this, saying on Wednesday, we've also been presented with reason to believe this may not have been an isolated incident.

On Monday night, a female NBC employee and her attorney met with NBC HR and detailed egregious acts of sexual harassment and misconduct. A source telling CNN the behavior began in 2014 at the Sochi Olympics and continued after that assignment. That accuser is remaining anonymous, as are the women speaking to "Variety" and "The New York Times".

For now, NBC's handling of the official complaint against Lauer is getting praised from the accuser's attorney. He writes: Our impression at this point is that NBC acted quickly and responsibly. It is our hope that NBC will continue to do what it can to repair the damage done to my client, their employee, and any other woman who may come forward.

Just two months ago, Lauer grilled Bill O'Reilly who was also fired when multiple sexual harassment allegations surfaced against the former FOX News host, allegations that O'Reilly.

MATT LAUER, FIRED NBC ANCHOR: Think about those five women and what they did. They came forward and filed complaints against the biggest star at the network they worked at. Think of how intimidating that must have been and how nerve-racking that must have been. Doesn't that tell you how strongly they felt how they were treated by you?

STELTER: Now, the Lauer floodgates may just be opening. Even as his former morning show family tries to move on.

AL ROKER, HOST, "TODAY SHOW": Still dealing with news of a friend of 30 years and we're all trying to process it.

GUTHRIE: 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.


STELTER: Women like Savannah Guthrie saying they have not heard or seen this side of Matt Lauer. But clearly, some women speaking to "New York Times" and "Variety" with very chilling accusations.

Guys, we've been asking Matt Lauer's PR people for comment. So far, he's remained silent now almost 24 hours after being fired.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: And also, you know, context and timing matters. For them to have to deal with that, having been told nothing as far as we know right before they go on --

CAMEROTA: Right before they went on.

CUOMO: You know, that's --

CAMEROTA: They had to process it on the air.

CUOMO: That's right. And remember, they're human beings. That's what they are. They had personal relationships. They had to deal with it professionally at the same time. I think they did as well as you could expect.

All right. Brian, please stay. Let's come in now with "New York Times" reporter who hemmed break some of the details that we are understanding right now, Rachel Abrams.

Thank you for coming here. We know you're busy on this one.

So, Brian says we haven't heard from Matt Lauer. Not unusual in a situation where more and more is coming out. You guys have been working on a story before this. This may or may not have prompted quick action by NBC.

Where are you now in terms of your reporting versus what we've seen so far? Is there still more?

RACHEL ABRAMS, REPORTER, NEW YORK TIMES: I think that we're taking accusations very, very seriously. We're obviously in the process of reporting on NBC and Matt Lauer, as has been reported in the process. NBC was aware we were looking into certain allegations, although I'm not sure they knew exactly what we were looking into.

And, you know, we continued to look into basically the onset culture at the "Today" show. We continue -- we are looking into NBC. We saw the statement from Andy Lack yesterday saying that they had no complaints for 20 years.

[06:35:04]\But we are curious just about whether there were problems.

As we know with FOX, FOX has maintained there were no HR complaints. But we know there wasn't problematic behavior.

CAMEROTA: And I do want to talk about that, because this is so much different than philandering. So, we had -- there had been rumors about philandering. And, you know, these are the euphemisms we learned no longer apply now in this climate. You can't say someone was a womanizer, you can't say they were philandering if in fact, they were a predator.

And details in your piece and in "Variety," it's so much different than what any of us on the outside thought. This is deviant predatory behavior.

Have you -- can you share with us from your reporting if anybody in management there knew about that level of this stuff?

ABRAMS: We're still trying -- we're still asking those questions and doing that reporting. What I will say is that, you know, Matt Lauer, a lot of people we spoke to would say, yes, we knew that he had affairs. And what I would have to tell sources a lot was that, look, I don't care about somebody's personal life. I don't care about consenting adult relationships. Who's cheating? We don't care about that. It's not our business.

What we do care about is if somebody is -- Matt Lauer was one of the most powerful people at NBC. So, what we care about is, if these women felt pressured, if they were pressured, if these unequal power dynamics led to behavior that was not consensual and inappropriate. And I think, you know, when you're at that level and you're having an intimate relationship with subordinate, we as reporters have to ask that question.

CUOMO: Good for you. Good for you looking at it that way, because I got to tell you, it's not easy to do and here's why. The bold-faced name is so appealing to the media and the audiences and your readership that it is hard to get to the next level.

We were talking, Brian, before we started the segment, FOX News, CBS News, NBC -- now, these are low hanging fruit for us. This is our industry. So, it is easier to know things. Who knows what's going on in other industries? We'll see.

But the bigger questions, NBC, nothing for 20 years. All of this seems to just come out. A complaint versus what was known. You lived at FOX. An official complaint put in a file somewhere versus something that was known.

What has changed at FOX? What has changed at CBS? What will change at NBC? It's easy to distract from those questions by getting or rid of a bold faced name, right? Because we want to know the details about Matt Lauer. But what about NBC? Because culture is going to happen with management, right? It's going to happen that way, not just by who you fire.

STELTER: And you look at FOX, for example. They say they have strengthened their human resources department. They say they've improved sexual harassment training. Those are the kinds of corporate steps other companies are probably also taking.

CUOMO: What will they settle? How will they settle? What will they allow to come out? Those are important changes.

STELTER: The woman who spoke to you from 2001 said she was in Matt Lauer's office, that he summoned her for sex, that she then passed out at one point, and had to be taken to the nurse. She did not tell her bosses at NBC because she was ashamed. She felt like it was partly her fault, is that right, that she couldn't have reported it?

ABRAMS: She felt she should have done more. I want to say, you know, we -- I worked on some of our other sexual a harassment coverages. There's a whole bunch of us. Some things are common in these narratives with women.

There is so much guilt wrapped up in their memories of the situation. They're so much, I should have done, I could have done more. What did I do to lead this on? These stories are complicated. They're not often not -- it's not what a lot of people think of when they think of nonconsensual sex. And women themselves think that.

So, that really keeps people from lodging formal complaints or taking action.

(CROSSTALK) STELTER: I think the problem is sexual harassment training is not going to change that, but a cultural shift in this country could help with that.

CAMEROTA: Well, sure. But, I mean, just talking about it and all of you learn, this is obviously a huge learning curve for men and women right now in this country because -- just because it's not at the end of a gun doesn't mean that you didn't have a horribly traumatic crime perpetrated. And so, we all need to talk about, you know, maybe it is time to start screaming when you think you're locked in one of your superior's rooms and he's making sexual advances.

CUOMO: But all accusations are different, right? So you have this which is a crime, OK? You know, as soon as I confine you in an environment, civilly it's false imprisonment.

CAMEROTA: This is the 2001 event that we're talking about when he summoned a subordinate to his room and forced her --

CUOMO: The door was supposedly locked. Then there was touching -- unconsented touching.

So, you're in a criminal realm. And the reason I make the point about all accusations being different is no way to provide defense to any of the behavior. However, you have to look at them differently. Some of this stuff is rape, you know, and that's a crime.

Then you have on the other side, what did he say what view he liked about somebody? What did he say about who had the blister on them? I really don't care about any of that. It goes to your corporate culture.

But you have to look at these things in terms of different categories of what needs to be actionable.

[06:40:03] And that's why I applaud you for saying, well, I want to stay focused on this stuff where it's abusive power, where it's potentially criminal and covered up by a system where if there is not an official complaint, it means a corporation can say they didn't know anything. Those are interesting questions.

CAMEROTA: Obviously, we will continue to have this conversation. Rachel, thank you very much for sharing your reporting with us.

Brian, thank you.

STELTER: Thanks.

CAMEROTA: All right. To other top news, North Korea releasing video of its most powerful missile launch yet as U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley sends a sobering warning to Kim Jong-un. We have all the details, next.


[06:45:02] CUOMO: All right. There is breaking news. A new report shows that the U.S.-led anti-ISIS coalition strikes killed at least 801 civilians in Iraq and Syria since the operation began in 2014. Hundreds of other reports of civilian deaths are being looked into. The deaths happened during the more than 28,000 strikes in that period. Coalition leaders say they're releasing the numbers to show accountability and that the coalition takes extraordinary care to protect civilians.

CAMEROTA: North Korea releasing new video of the powerful missile it launched this week. Its imposing size leader Kim Jong-un and military officials there. Defense officials from South Korea and Japan calling this a new type of intercontinental ballistic missile significantly larger than the one Pyongyang tested in July.

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley urging all nations to cut ties with North Korea while issuing this dire warning.


NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: We have never sought war with North Korea and still, today, we do not seek it. If war does come, it will be because of continued acts of aggression like we witnessed yesterday. And if war comes, make no mistake the North Korean regime will be utterly destroyed.


CAMEROTA: Following the launch, President Trump tweeted that more sanctions would be imposed on North Korea.

All right. So, people who have enjoyed mild weather in the central and eastern U.S. are about to get hit with a reality check.

CNN meteorologist Chad Myers has our forecast.

What's coming? Let me guess. Freezing?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, 63 in New York is not reality in December or even the end of November at all, Alisyn.

Yes, it is still mild, there's still good time for shopping, but cold air is on the way.

This weather is brought to you by Jared, the galleria of jewelry.

So, get out there and finish your shopping within the next, let's say, eight to 10 days. Now, closer to home, rain today overnight in New York City, it will rain. But it is still is mild. We should be 49, D.C., 53. And we're still going to be there for the next few days.

But look at this area of purple. You never like purple whether it's on your lips or the weather map, because that is where the cold air comes in. Temperatures are nice the next few days. We do get, though, by Friday and Saturday of next week. So, we are almost 10 days away. This is when the true arctic blast comes in.

I am hearing polar vortex on Twitter and my eyes roll -- Chris. CUOMO: Polar vortex --

MYERS: Let's not go there.

CUOMO: All right, Chad. I'll talk to you later.

President Trump's recent behavior leading the question, why does he say these things? Why does he enflame situations? Why is there an apparent recklessness to him?

We're going to talk to the co-author of "The Art of the Deal". He says he can tell you why, next.


[06:52:12] CUOMO: All right. President Trump's recent behavior, re- tweeting anti-Muslim videos, peddling debunked conspiracy theories, making LaVar Ball into a national figure. It is raising questions about what is going on in his head.

The co-author of "The Art of the Deal," the book that for many of you put Donald Trump on the map. He says people inside the White House are worried about what's going on with the president.

Let's bring him in. His name is Tony Schwartz.

Good to see you, Tony. So, what have you heard? And what does it make you think?

TONY SCHWARTZ, DONALD TRUMP'S CO-AUTHOR ON "THE ART OF THE DEAL": Well, even if I hadn't heard this I would think what I think. But I am connected to a large group of psychiatrists now who wrote this book "The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump." And there's a pretty widespread feeling among them that this is a shift that's occurring, that he has -- one of the people I know received successive calls from two different people from a White House number.

So you don't know for sure. But from a White House number saying we're concerned the president is, in one case, decompensating, which is a psychological term for losing his grip on reality. So, they saw something different and --

CUOMO: Decompensation is a psychological term but also a medical term, where what maintains homeostasis, your well-being, that those mechanisms are starting to break down. So, that would be suggestive no matter who they are that they had a research and that concern whether or not he was well.

SCHWARTZ: Exactly. And I think that's exactly what's happening.

There is a small -- very small percentage of people in the White House because I think a lot of them essentially function as either hostages or members of a cult. But I think there's probably still some who when they hear things like that "Access Hollywood" tape wasn't real get very anxious, because that is completely unmoored from reality. And I think the issue, Chris, is he has the bizarre advantage of

sociopathy. That's what I think the issue is. He doesn't have an internal moral arbiter. He is willing to say anything. So no guilt or sense of questioning himself ever arises.

CUOMO: The defense is this. He has a conscience. He is as well as you or I, probably better than I. But this is who he is and how he reacts to aggression as he perceives it.

You want to mess with him in the media, he will distract with different narratives, he will attack you 24/7, he will think about nothing else because a fair criticism is he has a hyper focus on what affects him. We are not used to seeing that as much in other presidents. But it doesn't make him sick, Tony.

Make your side of the case.

SCHWARTZ: What happens to a person who has very, very deep and vast in security is that they're always attempting to prop themselves up. And under the circumstances, he's feeling a kind of pressure on his own sense of security and well-being that is unprecedented. It's one thing to act in this way that you are talking about toward CNN or me. It's quite another to do it when Kim Jong-un just sent off a missile that can get to Washington and he's still acting as if he's on a playground, 9 years old, and he's taunting the guy across the playground.

CUOMO: But it could go to personality not competency. But to advance your own case here, let's put a graphic of what's happened recently and what has driven this speculation. You know, you can read through the bullet points you want. But, you know, as you read them in succession, it starts to ask, why is he missing with such insignificant stuff?

Going after LaVar Ball, making him so important. Al Frankenstien, going after Al Franken and those accusations while obviously ignoring the larger conversation about sexual assault and harassment. Going after the NFL time and time again. Using derisive language about black athletes.

You know, the way he defended Roy Moore. The way he shut down accusers by implication. The Pocahontas stuff, which is just a slur and how it is tortured the White House into a position of somehow trying not to recognize that fact, and most recently the videos.

Now, I still submit that as --

SCHWARTZ: Are you the prosecutor in the case here? I mean --

CUOMO: I think you are. I think you don't want to be so quick to give someone the defensive illness when this is completely competent and completely volitional. Doesn't mean it's not really or counterproductive.

SCHWARTZ: That's why sociopathy is the better description what most people think of as mentally ill, because a sociopath can be very, very effective in the world, can act in a way that appears to be very sequential. So, he has an odd blend I think of delusion and deflection.

The deflection and that list of things is deflecting from some of his vulnerabilities, some of his big vulnerabilities, most notably Russia. And the -- I'm sure panicky feeling he has that they're getting closer and closer to him on collusion in Russia. So, he has that ability to consciously deflect. But he has also -- that is fueled by a certain amount of delusion. And that delusion gets greater and greater, in other words, the idea that you get unmoored from reality is reflected when you say you're on tape saying something that you already acknowledge was real and now you say it's not.

CUOMO: I'll give you that. We have harped on the "Access Hollywood" latest instance very heavily here on the show because it is the most naked lie that I have seen the president tell while in office. There's absolutely no basis for it. It's absurd for him to do it. It raises questions as to why he would.

Tony Schwartz, appreciate your perspective. Let me know when you get your full degree.

SCHWARTZ: Thank you.

CUOMO: Alisyn?

CAMEROTA: Well, special counsel Robert Mueller reaching President Trump's inner circle. Russia investigators talking to Jared Kushner. So, what we are learning about that meeting, next.