Return to Transcripts main page


Matt Lauer Says He's Truly Sorry; NFL Players Come To Tentative Deal To Fund Social Justice Causes; Congress Paid Out $17 Million In Settlements Since The 1990s. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired November 30, 2017 - 07:30   ET


[07:30:00] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: "The New York Times" and "Variety" detailing very disturbing allegations from several current and former female staffers at the "TODAY" show.

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

We were wondering if he would come out, would he stay quiet and see what happens. He came out with a statement.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT, HOST, CNN "RELIABLE SOURCES": Yes. He says he is truly sorry. He wanted to make this statement timed to 7:00 a.m. to the start of the "TODAY" show. He would express his emotions to his former viewers.

Here's a part of what he said.



STELTER (voice-over): The "TODAY" show once again addressing Matt Lauer's firing this morning.

HODA KOTBE, HOST, NBC "TODAY": Our top story is, once again, about our former colleague Matt Lauer.

GUTHRIE: And, in fact, we just moments ago received a statement from Matt, and let me read it to you.

"There are no words to express my sorrow and regret for the pain I have caused others by words and actions. To the people I have hurt, I am truly sorry.

As I am writing this I realize the depth of the damage and disappointment I have left behind at home and at NBC.

[07:35:05] Some of what is being said about me is untrue or mischaracterized, but there is enough truth in these stories to make me feel embarrassed and ashamed."

STELTER: Alarming new allegations of sexual misconduct 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 also reporting accounts from three women who say Lauer harassed them. One says the veteran "TODAY" show anchor gave her a sex toy and then detailed in a note how he wanted to use it on her. Another employee says he exposed himself in his office and then 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 alert executives about Lauer's behavior.

In response to that, NBC says, "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."

NBC has known for weeks that damaging stories were coming. In a staff memo, NBC News chief Andy Lack alluded to this, saying on Wednesday, "We have 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 H.R. and detailed, quote, "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 praise from the accuser's attorney.

He writes, "Our impression at this point is that NBC acting 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 to any other women 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 denies.

MATT LAUER, THEN-ANCHOR, "TODAY": 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, how nerve-wracking that must have been.

Doesn't that tell you how strongly they felt about the way 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, WEATHER ANCHOR, NBC "TODAY": We're still dealing with the 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 lost for someone with the revelation that they have behaved badly?


STELTER: Hard, hard moment for the co-hosts of the "TODAY" show. Maybe more importantly, on a corporate level, hard questions for NBC about whether anybody had any inkling this might have been going on -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: OK, Brian. Thank you very much.

And joining us now is Ramin Setoodeh. He is "Variety's" New York bureau chief and one of the reporters who spoke to several of Matt Lauer's accusers and broke the story in "Variety" yesterday.

Great to have you here, Ramin.


CAMEROTA: So, the breaking news just moments ago is that Matt Lauer is speaking out for the first time. He's released his first public statement.

Let me read it in its entirety. Brian just touched on it. Here is the entire statement that Matt Lauer has put out and I want to read it for everyone.

"There are no words to express my sorrow and regret for the pain I have caused others by words and actions. To the people I have hurt, I am truly sorry. As I am writing this I realize the depth of the damage and disappointment I have left behind at home and at NBC.

Some of what is being said about me is untrue or mischaracterized, but there is enough truth in these stories to make me feel embarrassed and ashamed. I regret that my shame is now shared by the people I cherish dearly.

Repairing the damage will take a lot of time and soul searching and I'm committed to beginning that effort. It is now my full-time job.

The last two days have forced me to take a very hard look at my own troubling flaws. It's been humbling. I am blessed to be surrounded by the people I love. I thank them for their patience and grace."

Having spoken to the women, what do you think of his statement?

SETOODEH: I think the women -- given the sentiments that they expressed to us in two months of reporting, I think the women feel that there was a very different private Matt Lauer versus the public Matt Lauer that we saw on television. And so, I think that statement is a grappling of the two different Matt Lauers.

And is he actually sorry or is he sorry that he got caught? And I think that's a question that we're having in all of these sexual harassment cases when enough victims come forward that the man has to issue a statement and say I'm sorry.

CAMEROTA: I mean, Ramin, your reporting is so much different than any of the rumors or whispers we had ever heard, right? So this isn't philandering, what your report. This is predatory, deviant behavior.

Taking underlings into his office, shutting the door with a remote control button basically, and forcing himself and having wildly lewd things said to them and acts.

Tell me some of the things that you learned in your reporting.

SETOODEH: We learned in our reporting that we spoke to three women who consider themselves victims of sexual harassment and we learned in one of the cases Matt Lauer gave this colleague a sex toy with a note about what he wanted to do with the sex toy.

There was another story about how Matt Lauer had a colleague come into his office and took down his pants and exposed himself to the woman.

CAMEROTA: And told her -- and expected --


CAMEROTA: And expected a sex act when he did that.

SETOODEH: -- and reprimanded her when she resisted.

And the question I think in going forward is what did NBC know, who was involved? Speaking to the victims, they say that the network was aware of Matt's behavior.

CAMEROTA: Meaning what? Who did these -- the women that you have spoken to, who did they tell? Who did they go to?

SETOODEH: High-level executives at NBC were told about his behavior --

CAMEROTA: Meaning Andy Lack?

SETOODEH: -- where -- I'm not going to name names but high-level executives were told about his behavior, both current and prior executives.

CAMEROTA: And what was their response to the women?

SETOODEH: And we were told that they protected Matt Lauer because he was so valuable to the station.

CAMEROTA: Do you know what the incident was? What the event was that got them to fire him? SETOODEH: The event that led to this firing was the woman who came forward on Monday night and went to NBC's H.R. department with a very detailed complaint and evidence.

CAMEROTA: And do you know what that was? What happened? What she says -- what she claims happened.

SETOODEH: I don't feel comfortable talking about that specific case.

But what we do know publicly and what we have revealed in our reporting is that the woman's complaint was so troubling that it led NBC to act very quickly.

CAMEROTA: So is this one of these things that we now hear about with Harvey Weinstein and it was sort of true at Fox, called an open secret where people at the "TODAY" show and people in the building knew that Matt Lauer was doing things like this or did -- does this comes as a surprise -- the level of accusations?

SETOODEH: Our sources say it wasn't even considered a secret. It was known by many employees at the "TODAY" show, including some employees that have gone on television and said publicly we had no idea. According to our reporting, some of these -- some of the other personalities and on-air personalities were aware of these allegations.

CAMEROTA: So, now what? Now what? Where does this go from here?

SETOODEH: I think that this is a turning point in the conversation that we're having about sexual harassment in the workplace, and --

CAMEROTA: Well no, listen, I get that.


CAMEROTA: I get that this is a national tipping point, but I mean at NBC. If management knew this level of, I mean, really lewd, highly -- grossly inappropriate -- some of these things in your reporting -- I mean, look, I'm not a lawyer. I don't know if you want to call them assault or being accosted, but it was clearly unwanted in many of these cases.

So what's NBC going to do?

SETOODEH: I think they have a trust problem. How can they go forward and say we're cracking down on sexual harassment if people who work there knew that there was knowledge of this situation and of this behavior?

CAMEROTA: Did any of the women that you spoke to allege rape or something that would rise to prosecuting a criminal case?

SETOODEH: In the reporting that we published, no.

CAMEROTA: But there's more to come. SETOODEH: We've been in communication with more victims and more women will be coming forward to tell their story. We're confident of that.

CAMEROTA: Your reporting continues?

SETOODEH: Yes, it does.

CAMEROTA: You know, we've all been talking about the highly regrettable position that Savannah Guthrie, Hoda Kotb, as well as Charlie Rose's co-hosts have been put into to have to come out before you know all the facts and have to speak on a national stage about this colleague that you thought was one person or that you had a friendship with -- a professional friend with to have to speak about all of this.

[07:40:22] Do you have any reporting that suggested that any of the co-anchors at NBC knew about things like this?

SETOODEH: According to our sources, the co-anchors were aware of some of these allegations. And so, they're having trouble reckoning what some of these anchors said in private conversations versus what was said on T.V. yesterday.

CAMEROTA: Current anchors or former anchors?


CAMEROTA: Current and former anchors of Matt Lauer's knew that he was doing things that rose to the level of this kind of harassment and lewd behavior, not just extramarital affairs?

SETOODEH: Yes, not just extramarital affairs. Colleagues were told and -- in fact, not only were told or were aware, they were spreading these stories among the staff.

CAMEROTA: They were gossiping?


CAMEROTA: And so, the women that you have talked to now feel, what, betrayed?

SETOODEH: The women that we've talked to feel, I think, hopeful that this action was taken so quickly. But there are questions about what happens going forward and there's a lack of trust in the current management and the current environment given that this was allowed to go on for so long.

CAMEROTA: No kidding.


CAMEROTA: I mean, no kidding. If these women did go to -- look, in your -- I think it's your reporting. I get, sometimes, the "Times" and your stories -- they both crossed yesterday -- confused. But they told people. They told their husbands, they told friends at

the times.

But if they told people in management and colleagues, of course, there's a lack of trust. I mean something is -- this is going to be bigger, it seems like, at NBC than just Matt Lauer.

SETOODEH: This is -- this isn't the end of the story, no. We believe that there will be more women coming forward and we believe there will be more evidence about who knew what, when that will come out in the reporting in the days to come.

CAMEROTA: Ramin Setoodeh from "Variety." Thank you for sharing your reporting with us.

SETOODEH: Thanks for having me.

CAMEROTA: Chris --

CUOMO: All right, another topic.

The NFL extending an olive branch to players. Who will the league be giving a big donation to, next?


[07:46:25] CUOMO: The NFL is pledging nearly $100 million to social justice causes that are important to its players.

Andy Scholes has more in the "Bleacher Report."

This is a very interesting development. Obviously, this is some kind of accommodation, cooperation. No news, though, about anything to do with the nature of protests before or during games.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Chris. We'll have to wait and see if this has any effect on the National Anthem protests that we've seen over the last couple of seasons.

But, the NFL did work with a group of players to come to an agreement to partner on a plan to address social justice issues considered important to African-American communities.

Now, this "Bleacher Report" is brought to you by the new 2018 Ford F- 150.

The agreement does not include language calling for the players to end their National Anthem protests, but the League hopes this effort will help end the controversial movement. That's according to ESPN.

The deal calls for the NFL to contribute $89 million over seven years to projects dealing with criminal justice reform, community relations, and education.

All right. All eyes of the sports world are going to be on the Bahamas today as

Tiger Woods makes his latest comeback. Tiger fine-tuning his game yesterday following a 10-month layoff due to his fourth back surgery since 2014. Tiger is going to tee off in the Hero World Challenge at noon eastern.

He hasn't made the cut in a tournament since 2015, Alisyn. But luckily for Tiger, there is no cut this weekend because there's only 18 golfers competing in the Bahamas. So we'll get to see Tiger play, hopefully, the entire tournament.

CAMEROTA: OK, there you go. That will be entertaining.

Andy, thank you very much.

SCHOLES: All right.

CAMEROTA: As we now know, Congress secretly paid out $17 million in settlements with taxpayer dollars over the past two decades.

Who set up that system? Well, we have the former lawmaker who helped create that program, next.


[07:52:25] CAMEROTA: More than $17 million in taxpayer money has been paid in secret settlements for sexual harassment and other issues since the 1990s from Congress.

Congressman Jackie Speier called this program, known as the Office of Compliance, an enabler of sexual harassment.


REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D), CALIFORNIA: We have a system in place that allows for the harasser to go unchecked. He doesn't pay for the settlement, himself, and is never identified.

So the Office of Compliance, to which a victim must apply or complain, is a place that has really been an enabler of sexual harassment.


CAMEROTA: All right. Joining us now is former Republican Congressman Christopher Shays of Connecticut. He was the lead sponsor of the original 1995 act which created this program and the Office of Compliance.

Congressman, thanks so much for being with us.

CHRISTOPHER SHAYS (R), FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: You know, I'm delighted to be with you. Thank you.

CAMEROTA: I really appreciate it because there's been so many questions in the past few weeks about why --


CAMEROTA: -- this program works the way it does, why it seems to be shrouded in secrecy, why it seems to be so onerous --

SHAYS: So let's get on with it.

CAMEROTA: -- for the accusers.

So tell me what your original thinking was.

SHAYS: Well, first off, as Gwen Moore -- Congresswoman Gwen Moore said to me last week, almost every woman has a story to tell. And I would acknowledge as a man, there are probably very few men who haven't said or done something stupid.

Now, in terms of the bottom line what should happen?

What should happen is there should be quarterly reports. They should break down how each abuse was, what type of abuse. Was it an OSHA abuse or was it a sexual harassment abuse? So they need to determine that.


SHAYS: And they have to make sure that the abuser pays, whether it's the chief of staff who did something with his or her staff or a member of Congress, they need to pay.

CAMEROTA: Right. But so then, why did you set it up so the taxpayers paid?

SHAYS: OK, so now let's get into it.

In 1995 -- I got elected in 1987. I learned members -- the 30,000 employees in the Legislature had no rights. They weren't under any law.

Forty years of Democratic control --


SHAYS: -- had exempted them from OSHA, from workplace laws, from sexual harassment, from civil rights. They were exempted from everything.


SHAYS: And so, the logic is for the bill, you know, Congress needs to abide by the laws the general public has for two reasons. One, it's only fair, and two, they'll write better laws if they have to abide by them.

And then also --

CAMEROTA: OK, fair enough. So, I see.

SHAYS: And then also --

CAMEROTA: You were trying to -- but hold on. I just --

SHAYS: Yes, sure.

CAMEROTA: I just want to show how you set up the system because I think that this is really instructive.

SHAYS: Don't get -- don't get carried away by how we set it up or how the Office of Compliance has set it up.

[07:55:04] CAMEROTA: OK. Let me show how it works -- how it's supposed to work, OK?

So, here's how when a victim or an accuser has a case, this is what generally she must do.

They must report within 180 days. Then, the victim or the accuser has to go through 30 days of mandatory counseling, OK?

Next, after that, there's 30 days of mediation. That is where the harasser -- the accused -- is assigned a lawyer paid for with taxpayer money during that mediation, OK? It's -- and the accuser is also assigned a lawyer paid for with taxpayer --

SHAYS: Right.

CAMEROTA: -- money.

If nothing happens during mediation -- it can't be resolved -- then the accuser has to wait 30 to 90 days, a mandatory cooling-off --

SHAYS: That has to --

CAMEROTA: -- waiting period.

SHAYS: That all has to be changed.


SHAYS: That all has to be changed.

CAMEROTA: Then, one last thing.

SHAYS: Sure.

CAMEROTA: Then she generally must sign a confidentiality agreement.

So you now see that all -- that all of that has lent itself to a sense of enabling for the --

SHAYS: Right.

CAMEROTA: -- accused.

SHAY: And so what happened before 1995? They had no right to make any complaint. A member could have sexual abuse and not be held accountable.

So what we did is we put Congress under all the laws that had been exempted. And the one area that there was some negotiation with the powers that be -- the leadership -- was on what you do with a sexual harassment case.

And the reason -- the logic at the time was anyone could make a complaint, make it public, and then that person's life is ruined. So what we did is we established the Office of Compliance, like the EEOC, to enforce the law.


SHAYS: I would have expected by now that the office, every quarter, would have issued reports. There was no restriction that they shouldn't do that. I would have thought that the Office of Compliance would have made noise continually --


SHAYS: -- that it needed to be changed, and it didn't.

So --

CAMEROTA: And so now, do you have regret at how it was set up?

SHAYS: No, I don't have regret of how it was set up. How else were you going to say -- if we didn't do -- set it up this way they wouldn't have had any rights whatsoever. I hope that's clear.

CAMEROTA: Yes, it is. So, yes, you're right.

SHAYS: OK, so --

CAMEROTA: So let me amend the question. Do you have now regret at how it's been used?

SHAYS: I have no -- I have no regrets about establishing the law. We put them under 12 laws that Congress had not been under -- all of them under Democratic rule. That was -- that was --

CAMEROTA: Yes. Listen, you've made a good case about why it was necessary. But now --


CAMEROTA: -- 20 years later, that you see how it's been used with these secretive payments with women having to --

SHAYS: Right.

CAMEROTA: -- sign confidentiality agreements and being silenced.

SHAYS: Right.

CAMEROTA: But do you now -- SHAYS: I think it's -- I think it's outrageous.

CAMEROTA: -- regret how it played out?

SHAYS: Well, I haven't been there for 10 years and I would hope that by then I would have been notified by the Office of Compliance how things were working. Why did they stop issuing reports seven years ago? That's not something Congress did.

But -- so the challenge is this. We need a strong Office of Compliance to do its job. They need to be outspoken. They need to be telling the folks that work here what their rights are.


SHAYS: They need to be telling folks what they can do and can't do. They need to be proactive. And I realize it's difficult because of the leaders controlling.


SHAYS: There's a five-member board.

So, my --

CAMEROTA: Understood, but should the accused now pay out of their own pocket?

SHAYS: Well, I've already made that clear. The accused should pay, plain and simple.


SHAYS: They should pay. But you need --

CAMEROTA: And should women have to sign confidentiality agreements?

SHAYS: No, absolutely not. Absolutely not.


SHAYS: Those things should change and you're right to point them out. And it should have happened, you know, a number of years ago.

But, you know, it would be important to know of the millions that have been spent, how much were spent on OSHA and so on?

CAMEROTA: Well, we'd like to know that.


CAMEROTA: We actually can't figure that out. We have interviewed so many lawmakers who said I didn't even know about this. I didn't even know --

SHAYS: Well -- CAMEROTA: -- about these settlements.

SHAYS: Let me just tell you. You're just hitting the tip of the iceberg here because one of the laws is, is that they're supposed to pay time and a half for their employees. That's what I had to do when we -- even before we set up law I put himself under it as if we had to abide by it.

I mean --

CAMEROTA: Right, but you don't know the answer today, too. You don't know how many -- how much has been paid out for sexual harassment.


CAMEROTA: There's no way for you to know, right?

SHAYS: That's true.


SHAYS: And I just want to make the point though, this is just part of it. You have OSHA, you have civil rights laws, you have a whole bunch of things.

Fortunately, one of the things that the law did is we now have sprinklers in our system. We abide now by the Disability Act so we have ramps. There are so many good things that have happened from this law --


SHAYS: -- and now, the Office of Compliance just needs to do its job more forcefully.

CAMEROTA: And update it.

SHAYS: And then --

CAMEROTA: Yes, I hear you.


CAMEROTA: I totally appreciate that. Some good things came out of the law and this outdated system --

SHAYS: A lot of good things --

CAMEROTA: -- of --

SHAYS: -- came from the law.

CAMEROTA: Good to know. And this outdated system you would change today.

Congressman, appreciate it. We really appreciate you -- SHAYS: OK.

CAMEROTA: -- telling us the history of this. That is valuable.


CAMEROTA: Thank you very much.

SHAYS: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: We're following a lot of news this morning so let's get to it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president's tweet sparking an international incident.


SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Whether it's a real video, the threat is real.