NBC News Chairman Andrew “Andy” Lack is setting the record straight on whether or not the television broadcasting company knew of Matt Lauer‘s alleged sexual misconduct before his firing.
In an internal memo to NBC staff obtained by PEOPLE, Lack vehemently condemned Lauer’s alleged behavior and expressed sympathy toward former NBC employee Brooke Nevils, who accused Lauer of anally raping her in his hotel room at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
“First, and most importantly, in reading today’s news our hearts go out to our former colleague. Matt Lauer’s conduct in 2014 was appalling and reprehensible — and of course we said so at the time,” Lack wrote in the memo.
Lack explained that Lauer, 61, was promptly fired after NBC first became aware of his alleged behavior.
“The first moment we learned of it was the night of November 27, 2017, and he was fired in 24 hours. Any suggestion that we knew prior to that evening or tried to cover up any aspect of Lauer’s conduct is absolutely false and offensive,” Lack added.
He then shared that after Lauer’s termination, “NBCU’s legal team did an exhaustive investigation of available records and conducted dozens of interviews of past and present staff. They uncovered no claims or settlements associated with allegations of inappropriate conduct by Lauer before he was fired.”
“Only following his termination did NBCU reach agreements with two women who had come forward for the very first time, and those women have always been free to share their stories about Lauer with anyone they choose,” Lack continued.
Since the incident, Lack revealed that NBC has worked to “improve our culture and ensure we have a workplace where everyone feels safe and respected, as well as protected in raising claims.”
“We’ve required all NBC News employees to complete in-person workplace behavior trainings and we’ve significantly increased awareness of the ways employees report concerns – anonymously or otherwise,” Lack added.
After Variety published details from Ronan Farrow’s Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators, which details how Lauer allegedly raped Nevils — a source told PEOPLE that employees at the network were long aware of his extramarital encounters, if not any alleged assault.
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“People knew Lauer was having affairs but nobody ever knew it was with people associated with NBC,” the source said. “People knew he would act overly flirtatious with the junior employees around the office. He would take them out for drinks, maybe not get them drunk, but it wasn’t uncommon that he would go out for drinks with junior people at NBC.”
In Farrow’s book, Nevils says her encounter with Lauer was “nonconsensual in the sense that I was too drunk to consent.”
“It was nonconsensual in that I said, multiple times, that I didn’t want to have anal sex,” she continued.
Nevils says in the book that she had more sexual encounters with Lauer back in New York City, according to Variety, telling Farrow, 31: “It was completely transactional. It was not a relationship.”
Lauer, who recently finalized his divorce from longtime wife Annette Roque, penned a lengthy letter in response, claiming the encounter was “extramarital, but consensual.”
He explained the encounter in Sochi was the beginning of his affair with Nevils and “the first of many sexual encounters between us over the next several months.”
“At no time, during or after her multiple visits to my apartment, did she express in words or actions any discomfort with being there, or with our affair,” he said. “She also went out of her way to see me several times in my dressing room at work, and on one of those occasions we had a sexual encounter. It showed terrible judgment on my part, but it was completely mutual and consensual.”
Lauer, who pointed out what he claims are “contradictions” in Nevils’ story, also acknowledged that people were aware of the affair.
“There are people who fully understand the actual dynamic that existed between Brooke and me,” he said. “They have reluctantly and quietly reached out in the past two years and shared what they know. They have accurately described Brooke and her role in this affair. I hope those people will understand that these allegations cross a serious line, and what they can share is a vital truth, even if it may seem unpopular.”
Lauer concluded by stating that he has “never assaulted anyone or forced anyone to have sex. Period.”
Lauer was fired in November 2017 due to Nevils’ complaint.
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, please contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) or go to online.rainn.org.