Mr. Oppenheim added that NBC executives began their questioning of Mr. Lauer after learning that reporters from The New York Times and Variety were looking into Mr. Lauer’s workplace conduct.
In a memo sent to NBC staff members on Friday afternoon, Mr. Lack addressed “the circumstances around Matt Lauer’s appalling behavior, why this was able to happen, and why it wasn’t reported sooner.”
Mr. Lack said that a “team of the most experienced NBCUniversal Legal and Human Resources leaders have begun a thorough and timely review of what happened” regarding Mr. Lauer. (When Fox News faced public allegations of sexual misconduct against its chairman, Roger Ailes, and one of its prime time stars, Bill O’Reilly, it hired the outside law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison to conduct a review.)
Mr. Lack further pledged in the memo that the network would have “greater transparency” in the future. He also directed NBC News employees to take any complaints to their managers, newsroom leaders, human resources officers or two available hotlines, the NBCUniversal Integrity Helpline and the Comcast Listens Helpline.
On Wednesday, in the memo announcing Mr. Lauer’s firing, Mr. Lack said that the detailed allegation made against Mr. Lauer on Monday was “the first complaint about his behavior in the over twenty years he’s been at NBC News.”
Later on Wednesday, NBC released a statement that seemed to emphasize the executives’ ignorance of any accusations against Mr. Lauer: “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.”
Mr. Oppenheim’s visit to “NBC Nightly News” and Mr. Lack’s memo to the staff on Friday came after several news outlets, including The New York Post, reported that Mr. Lauer’s transgressions were well known at 30 Rockefeller Plaza.
“Good Morning America,” the ABC program that is the main rival to “Today,” reported on Thursday that Mr. Lauer’s behavior was an “open secret” and that NBC’s official denial was at odds with ABC’s reporting on the matter.
Fox News, despite having parted with Mr. Ailes and Mr. O’Reilly after allegations of sexually inappropriate behavior against both men, has also been banging the drum against NBC executives and their handling of Mr. Lauer.
No news outlet, however, has specifically described how NBC’s executives were aware of Mr. Lauer’s allegations.
Mr. Lack became the NBC News chairman in 2015, and Mr. Oppenheim was named president of the news division this year. Both men have long histories with NBC and Mr. Lauer, who joined “Today” in 1994 and was named its co-anchor in 1997.
Mr. Lack served as the president of NBC News from 1993 to 2001 before becoming the president of the NBC network for two years. Mr. Oppenheim was a senior producer on “Today” from 2005 to 2008, and worked as the show’s the top executive from 2015 to early 2017. Between those stints, he worked in Hollywood, including as a screenwriter. He wrote the script for “Jackie,” a 2016 Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis biopic starring Natalie Portman that earned three Oscar nominations.
“Today” continues to report on developments involving Mr. Lauer. On Friday morning, it aired a segment that included paparazzi shots of the former NBC star taken in the Hamptons after his firing and published by The Daily Mail on Thursday. The “Today” show report also noted that “questions have been raised about whether NBC executives knew of the complaints prior to Monday evening.”