Five moments when Matt Lauer’s on-air behavior raised eyebrows

Matt Lauer and Hillary Clinton in 2016 during NBC News' Commander-in-Chief Forum in New York City.
(Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)
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During Matt Lauer’s 20-plus years as an anchor on “Today,” certain interviews and bits, on the show and elsewhere, have raised a few eyebrows or been seen as sexist.

NBC announced Wednesday that Lauer had been fired from his longtime stint after the network on Monday fielded “a detailed complaint from a colleague concerning inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace that violated company policy. Though NBC News Chairman Andrew Lack said in a memo that it was the first complaint they had gotten about Lauer, “We were also presented with reason to believe this may not have been an isolated incident.”

Here are a few incidents where Lauer was criticized for his on-camera tactics.

1. Quizzing GM Chief Executive Mary Barra about being a working mom

In 2014, Lauer sat down with Barra, the first female chief executive at General Motors. He noted that although she'd gotten the job because she was “hugely” qualified with 30 years’ experience, "there are some people who are speculating that you also got this job as a woman, and as a mom, because people within General Motors knew this company was in for a very tough time, and as a woman and a mom you could present a softer face and softer image for this company ... Does it make sense or does it make you bristle?”

Her response: “It’s absolutely not true” that she got the job because she was female. Lauer went on to ask whether she thought she could handle double duty as a CEO and a mom. He later said she’d brought it up first.

2. Blaming Anne Hathaway for a photo

    “Good to see you,” Lauer told Hathaway when she appeared on “Today” to promote the film “Les Misérables.” “Seen a lot of you lately.” He was referring to up-skirt photos of the actress, sans underwear, that were taken as she got out of an SUV at the film’s premiere. (While the footage is not available via “Today,” it was captured by Sam Seder for his Majority Report podcast; skip to the 1:05 mark to see Hathaway’s interview segment.)

    “Let’s just get it out of the way,” he continued. “You had a little wardrobe malfunction the other night. What’s the lesson learned from something like that? Other than that you keep smiling, which you’ll always do.” Hathaway rolled with the implication that it was her fault, said she was sad that culture had come to that, and turned the conversation back to the movie.

    3. Cross-dressing for Halloween

    Lauer has been Jennifer Lopez in that green Versace dress, nearly delivering a wardrobe malfunction of his own as he swung his legs out of the car he arrived in. He’s been Paris Hilton. Dolly Parton brought him a starter kit so he could be like her, complete with a massive brassiere. He’s even been a swimsuit-clad Pamela Anderson circa “Baywatch.”

    “Is someone drowning? I brought my cans,” he told Carmen Electra, speaking out over his ample prosthetic “Baywatch” bosom. Of course, he was talking about the two lifeguard cans he was holding. What else could he have meant?

    4. Going sans pants and mocking sexual harassment

    Two of the jokey segments that run occasionally on “Today” seem more than awkward in wake of Lauer’s termination: In one, a scene from “Today: The Musical,” Lauer takes off his pants in the hallway at work so a page can iron them after a coffee spill.

    “Drink it in, ladies,” Lauer says, opening his jacket and flashing his female co-hosts as they walk past. They look at him standing there in his boxers and respond, one by one: “Again, Matt?” "Really?” “It’s the third time this week!” “Did your mommy give you those?” “Stop it! You’re making me lactate.”

    In a 2012 sketch, presented as an investigative piece, Lauer and Willie Geist mock sexual harassment after MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” co-anchor is caught on tape smacking Lauer’s butt. Lauer tells an interviewer it was "impossible" that he'd provoked the tush-tap. "I didn't do anything differently. I wasn't wearing a different cologne. This was uninitiated,” he says.

    Why was Lauer upset? Two reasons. Geist wasn’t owning up to his behavior, even though it could be seen on video. Also, since the slap happened, “He hasn’t called,” Lauer says. “He hasn’t written.”

    5. Handling Clinton and Trump differently

    After Lauer sat down for a half-hour each with then-candidates Clinton and Donald Trump for a televised presidential forum in September 2016, critics accused him of pressing Clinton too hard and for too long about her handling of classified information on a private email server, and reminded her that time was limited, while letting Trump get away with bizarre and sometimes false statements without any pushback.

    Political commentator Norman Ornstein said on Twitter, “It is amazing. Lauer interrupted Clinton's answers repeatedly to move on. Not once for Trump. Tough to be a woman running for President.”


    1:55 p.m.: This article was updated to include comedy sketches from the “Today” show.

    This article was originally published at 1:05 p.m.