While NBC executives have insisted they had no idea that Matt Lauer allegedly made moves on unwillingly female colleagues, the disgraced former “Today Show” host had a reputation as a married man with a wandering eye.
And that reputation was certainly well-known in what constituted New York City’s media elite in 2008, judging by a legendary Friars Club roast of the NBC star.
A nine-year-old Village Voice report by journalist Tony Ortega has resurfaced in the wake of Lauer’s firing from NBC for alleged sexual misconduct involving at least one female colleague.
Ortega attended the roast and offers a colorful but NSFW account of the gala event, which was attended by such media luminaries as future President Donald Trump, Brian Williams, Diane Sawyer, Martha Stewart and Howard Stern.
Lauer’s current and former “Today Show” colleagues also were there, including Katie Couric, Ann Curry, Meredith Vieira and the evening’s “roastmaster” Al Roker.
The event, at the Hilton Hotel in midtown Manhattan, also featured a “surprise” cameo by Lauer’s sort-of nemesis Tom Cruise.
Lauer had a famous interview with Cruise in which the “Top Gun” star ended up looking somewhat unhinged and bullying for criticizing Brooke Shields for using medication to treat postpartum depression. Cruise, as a Scientologist, lectured Lauer on why he doesn’t believe in the use of psychiatric medications to treat such maladies.
But in his comments, Cruise was fairly good-natured in teasing Lauer about the mundane nature of “doing the same thing every day” on the “Today Show.” It also turned out that Cruise’s comments were probably the most PG-rated of the night.
Current CNN Worldwide President Jeff Zucker, who was chairman of NBC Universal in 2008, alluded to Lauer’s active libido, or whatever one would call it.
Notably, after Lauer’s ouster, Zucker adamantly denied that he had any idea about the anchor’s alleged workplace sexual encounters. But at the roast, Zucker made a joke about how Lauer likes to masturbate. He also poked fun at the star anchor’s marital problems.
“Matt was having some trouble at home with the wife, he was sleeping on Bryant Gumbel’s couch,” he said. Lauer and Gumbel, who preceded Lauer as “Today” host, were known to be close friends.
Vieira, then partnered with Lauer on the “Today Show,” was anything but prim and proper. Her opening, in which she called him an expletive, got a huge laugh from the crowd.
She also made some kind of joke about Katie Couric “juggling” Lauer’s testicles and referred to Lauer and weatherman Roker having anal sex.
“Let’s focus on Matt’s numerous achievements in journalism,” she said with the briefest of pauses. “OK, that’s done.”
She signed off by calling Lauer another expletive.
In comparison, the comments by Lauer’s former co-anchor Couric were tame, though she got in some raunchy comments in a Letterman-style “Top Ten” list. Some highlights, according to Ortega:
“10. According to his wife, he’s not really an early riser, if you know what I mean.”
No. 7 was a reference to when Couric had an on-air colonoscopy, and Lauer figured into that. But perhaps “the best,” Ortega said in a cheeky way, was no. 2 and had to do with a crude allusion to a sex act between Lauer and Curry.
The room loved that one, too, though Curry turned pale, Ortega said.
Hindsight offers up what now could be seen as the most cringeworthy comments, which were made by Lauer himself, who spoke at the end of the roast.
He alluded to having sex with both Curry and Couric, reprising Couric’s colonoscopy joke. In his joke about Curry, he referred to himself as being well-endowed.
One media executive, who attended the roast, told Fox News that “there clearly was a vein of truth running through all those jokes. … You had Katie Couric, Meredith Vieira and Jeff Zucker all standing up there joking about his sex in the office, his kinkiness. They all knew.”
Of course, that’s not the version of reality being pitched by NBC News executives, according to Fox. News and other outlets.
But executives’ denials have raised skepticism “within NBC and out,” considering that both executive have deep ties to Lauer going back years, Fox News said. NBC is currently conducting a review of the situation, but have resisted an outside, independent investigator to look into who knew what about Lauer’s behavior.
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