On Friday, Couric, 60, broke her silence on the news that NBC had fired the longtime Today host after receiving a “detailed complaint from a colleague about inappropriate sexual behavior,” with reason to believe “this may not have been an isolated incident.” Swiftly following his termination, women also anonymously accused Lauer, 59, of sexual harassment and assault in reports published by Variety and The New York Times.
Calling it “incredibly upsetting,” Couric announced that she would fully address the situation when she’s “ready.” In the meantime, here’s a look back at Couric and Lauer’s relationship over the years.
Couric and Lauer’s on-screen rapport began in 1992, when he was the anchor of an early weekday news show on WNBC in New York, Today in New York. Couric, who joined Today in 1989 as a national political correspondent, had been co-hosting NBC’s flagship morning show since April 1991.
The two would engage in so-called “cross talk,” chatting briefly for local viewers about what was coming up on Today. Throughout that period, Lauer would also fill in as Today‘s newsreader before he was officially hired as a news anchor in 1994.
In a 2012 interview with Howard Stern, Couric admitted that she had “a little crush” on Lauer when he was at WNBC, because he “was so funny and so quick” — though she insisted their relationship had always been platonic. (When Lauer went on Stern’s radio show the following month, he returned the compliment: “I think every man in America was attracted [to her],” he said. “She’s a very attractive woman.”)
In January 1997, Lauer took over hosting duties from Bryant Gumbel. In an 2006 interview with the New York Times, he said he would always be grateful that Couric had been “in my corner” when his name was bandied about for the co-anchor job, and had served as his “comfort zone” when he first joined her on the couch.
“Katie is Katie,” he said. “There is no question in my mind that Katie has attracted a lot more attention in this role than almost anyone who has ever had it. There are a lot of reasons for that. … Because she is that kind of dynamic personality.”
From the get-go, Couric and Lauer had an effortless, genuine rapport that viewers responded to instantly, leading to a steady ratings climb within their first year together — and dominating their competition, ABC’s Good Morning America.
Couric, who was perky, fearless and compassionate, was branded “America’s Sweetheart,” and Lauer exhibited a winning mix of friendliness and a certain gravitas. Both had the ability to shift from hosting a light-hearted show to covering breaking news, including on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001. (The two were live on the air when the first plane hit the north tower of the World Trade Center.)
In 2012, Lauer told Stern that Couric, in his estimation, was his best co-host.
“Katie was the person that when I got to the Today show — which was my dream job — we had a good and easy chemistry,” he said.
The end of an era
In April 2006, after months of speculation, Couric announced that she was leaving Today for CBS Evening News.
“Once in a while, we get on each other’s nerves — well, he gets on my nerves — but I could not have asked for a more talented partner or better friend,” she said, turning to Lauer, when she made the announcement on air. “And as Dorothy said to the Scarecrow, I think I’m going to miss him most of all.”
The camera then shifted to Lauer, who eased the tension by cracking a goodhearted joke.
“Also coming up in this half hour,” he began, deadpan, as they shared a laugh.
Couric left CBS Evening News in 2011, immediately fueling speculation that she and Lauer, whose contract at Today was set to expire the following year, might reunite in a new venture.
“Matt and I have undeniable chemistry in the most platonic sense of the word,” she told PEOPLE at the time. “We are like an old, married couple. We finish each other’s sentences. He is very committed to the Today show. But who knows?”
“You never know what the future may bring,” she added. “We may work together. It’s hard to say right now. We have a fun repartee.”
In January 2017, Couric returned for a weeklong stint at Today to celebrate Lauer’s 20th anniversary as anchor of the program.
“It feels like I never left,” she told her former colleague. “It’s fun, and you make it so easy, Matt, because you’re so great at this job.”
Reflecting on their first day together, she said it was “extremely natural when Matt stepped into the chair.”
“He just crushed it right away,” she said. “What can I say? He had me at ‘Good morning.’ ”
Other unflattering footage of Lauer also began circulating, including a clip of him telling Meredith Vieira to “keep bending over,” and one in which Vieira ribbed him about a “huge bag of sex toys” she joked that she discovered in his office.
A source who worked with Couric and Lauer later told PEOPLE that “dirty jokes” were not uncommon on set.
“Katie was very bawdy and was known to tell a dirty joke. So was Matt,” the source said. “Nobody in this industry is squeaky clean. Dirty jokes were a thing shared by men and women. This was the workplace culture.”
Breaking her silence
On Friday, Couric spoke out about the allegations against Lauer for the very first time in a response to an Instagram user who commented on a photo she posted, calling Couric out for not publicly addressing the scandal.
To the surprise of the Instagram user, Couric responded.
“It’s incredibly upsetting and I will say something when I’m ready to,” she said. “Thanks for your interest.”
Lauer himself publicly addressed the allegations in a statement read Nov. 30 by his former co-hosts on-air.
“There are no words to express my sorrow and regret for the pain I have caused others by words and actions,” he said. “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,” he continued. “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 people I love. I thank them for their patience and grace.”