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NBC: Matt Lauer Fired For "Inappropriate Sexual Behavior"; President Retweets Far-Right, Anti-Muslim Videos. Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired November 29, 2017 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. This morning, a major bombshell completely changing the landscape of morning television. "Today" show host, Matt Lauer, the cornerstone of the country's longest-running morning television program, is out, fired, today after NBC News says an employee came forward to complain of inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace.
Lauer's co-host, Savannah Guthrie, she broke the news at the top of the program this morning, just minutes after learning of it all herself.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, HOST, "TODAY": All we can say is that we are heartbroken. I'm heartbroken for Matt. He is my dear, dear friend and my partner and he is beloved by many, many people here. And I'm heartbroken for the brave colleague that came forward to tell her story and any other women who have their own stories to tell.
And we are grappling with a dilemma that so many people have faced these past few weeks. How do you reconcile your love for someone with the revelation that they have behaved badly? And I don't know the answer to that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: It is not an overstatement to say that there is no one bigger, no one more recognizable in morning television than Matt. He's been with the "Today" show for two decades. He's -- and just recently, he co-hosted their Thanksgiving Day parade coverage, just last week. And now, he's out.
Let's bring in Brian Stelter, senior media correspondent for CNN, of course, and host of "Reliable Sources." Brian, exactly what do we know right now? I feel like there's a lot that we don't.
BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: We know that "The New York Times" and "Variety" magazine have been investigating Lauer's conduct for weeks, in fact, more than a month in one of those cases. We don't know the details of what those outlets have found, but clearly, they have spoken with multiple women who have accused Lauer of wrongdoing.
And in the midst of all of that, another NBC employee reached out to the company on Monday night to file a formal complaint against Lauer. That's what triggered an investigation on Tuesday and his firing overnight.
And on a morning conference call just now, the head of NBC News said to staffers that Lauer was accepting of the decision and was remorseful. He is disappointed in the pain this is going to cause for staffers, for his colleagues, and obviously, for the women involved.
BOLDUAN: So, he did not deny the accusation against him?
STELTER: That is my impression, that this was a very swift decision and that he accepted the decision. I know that Lauer has hired outside PR people, they are may be working on a statement. So far, we haven't heard anything officially from Lauer yet. I think, Kate, maybe he is waiting to see what's reported by the "New York Times" and "Variety."
BOLDUAN: All right. Guys, let's -- Brian, stick with me, if you will, we've got a lot to discuss here. Let's bring in a couple of other friends to hash this all out. Marisa Guthrie, of course, with the "Hollywood Reporter," Larry Hackett, former editor at "People" magazine, and Hadas Gold, CNN media and business reporter.
Great to have you all here. Marissa, let me start with you. As I was thinking about this all today and this morning, this situation is different from others that have come out in recent.
In one significant way, there was no independent reporting that came out before NBC moved on this, before he was -- it was handled swiftly and internally, even though as Brian says, there were reports coming. What does that mean?
MARISA GUTHRIE, SENIOR WRITER, "THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER": Most of the other people we've seen, certainly the big names, have been fired, terminated after an expose detailed their behavior. This -- but this is something Matt -- this has been percolating about Matt for a while.
And we've been looking into it, as Brian said, "The New York Times" and "Variety" have been looking into it. And, you know, we have talked to -- I have talked to multiple people who said there were things and all of these companies are looking at all of their people and trying to get ahead of this stuff.
It's very delicate, because, you know it's coming. Do you wait for it? Do you get ahead of it? In this case, NBC decided to get ahead of it, and you know, that is -- and we'll see what comes out after the fact.
BOLDUAN: Because, Larry, there's no -- I don't think anyone should think that this is going to squash any story that's going to come out.
LARRY HACKETT, FORMER EDITOR, "PEOPLE" MAGAZINE: No, not at all. And I don't know if there's a whole great deal of significance to the fact that it came out ahead of time. Inside NBC, they knew it was coming. The fact that it didn't see the light of day to the ordinary reader is not that significant. I mean, if they appear that way to the outside, but I don't think it's that significant. They know it's coming. It's obviously imminent.
BOLDUAN: What's your reaction to this? Look, the -- this entire country of morning tv watchers are waking up, processing, and realizing what's going on.
HACKETT: Yes, I mean, it's shocking. It was riveting television. I mean, that's undeniable, to see Savannah and Hoda there clearly having just found out that this was happening, and their emotions were absolutely real.
I mean, look, these shows trade in the idea that these are families and that they all get along. It's not entirely true, but that is part of their stock and trade. And that's part of their success.
So, when you have someone like Matt who has weathered all kinds of issues with, you know, he took over successfully for Bryant Gumbel. There was the dismissal of Ann Curry and his hand in that five years ago.
[11:05:08] He's weathered all of this. To see this happen like this, it is nothing short of shocking. I think that's what people are dealing with.
BOLDUAN: And talking about kind of that family atmosphere on morning television, Brian, that's something you've written about extensively in your book, especially taking a look at the "Today" show and even some of the rumors surrounding Matt and affairs that he had had. But this seems to be something different, entirely.
STELTER: That's right. It was an open secret within NBC five years ago, when I was writing a book about this world, but also today, that, you know, Lauer did have relationships with women that were not his wife.
That was something that was written about in the tabloids. It was something that a lot of his viewers knew and accepted. However, I had never heard allegations of harassment or assault or anything, the kind of sexual misconduct we've heard about in the last two months.
Certainly, many of the sources I've talked to this morning are expecting the same kind of shock you're describing, Larry. Even people that know Lauer well who are saying, we didn't know there was this other side.
We are difficult situation here because we haven't seen these specific allegations yet. We don't know what was alleged Monday night by this employee, but we know it was severe enough for NBC to take swift action.
HACKETT: I think the initial factor too is also NBC news has been under a lot of heat about mishandling the Ronan Pharaoh investigation. BOLDUAN: I was going to ask about what both of you thought about that in terms of the element of do you think that NBC not going with Ronan Pharaoh's reporting, he ended up, of course, taking it to the "New Yorker." Does that play into this? Do you think that's it?
HACKETT: I don't know for a fact. I can't imagine it didn't have some kind of impact.
BOLDUAN: What do you think, Marisa?
GUTHRIE: I think that they realized that they should have pursued that story more forcefully and that they were behind the curve on that. The morning that that story broke, and the morning that the first "New York Times" stories broke about Harvey Weinstein, and we had reported that Ronan was working on this piece for "The New Yorker," there were all of these stories about, why isn't NBC talking more about this?
All of the other shows were talking about Harvey. That was a top story for them. And NBC was sort of a little timid immediately out of the gate on that. And I think there was a lot of soul searching after that, a lot of anger inside NBC after that.
And so, I think they have to appear to be taking a strong hand in this. And as Savannah said, this morning, they're going to be reporting it. So, they really do have to get into that.
BOLDUAN: And they have been.
STELTER: The stories in Washington and Los Angeles and other power centers involving powerful men, not to mention the president of the United States and the allegations against him. These news outlets, NBC, this week, CBS last week, have to cover this seriously.
BOLDUAN: And Hadas, let me bring you in on this. I mean, was there anyone who was as big as matt Lauer when it comes toing morning television? And with that, is that now over? What does this mean for "Today"?
HADAS GOLD, CNN MEDIA AND BUSINESS REPORTER: I mean, already the morning television shows were clearly changing, but you're right that Matt was a huge presence. He had been there for decades, one of the most reliable faces of a huge empire that brings in tens and hundreds of millions of dollars for these networks.
These are really the money-making machines of these networks and that's really important to keep in mind. Now, obviously, the question is, what happens next? Who will replace Matt Lauer? And also, who will replace Charlie Rose? It's only been one week since Charlie Rose was let go from CBS this morning.
Now I'm hearing some people, the "New York Times" television critics, for example, are saying, why not have an all-female cast. We saw Savannah and Hoda up there today. It always seems to fall these female co-hosts to talk about what happened and explain to their viewers. Maybe we'll see, finally, a television morning show, a major one on one of these major networks have an all-female host cast in the morning.
BOLDUAN: Follow the lead of PBS News hour possibly, that had been doing that quite successfully for quite some time, yes. And I think, Hadas, we would all agree that how the female co-hosts, how Savannah, how Hoda, how Nora, and how Gayle all handled this, which is the most impossible of impossible situations, to be put on, to say on live tv, to have to present this and report it. So admirably.
GOLD: It is. And they were so -- we've seen some really eloquent moments out of these women because as they said, it is a tough situation. It's somebody that they are very close with. They spend so many hours with these people, every single day, at very odd hours.
There's no one else really in the world who understands what their jobs are like, except for the other morning show hosts. And to have to talk about this and obviously, they still have personal relationships with these people, it just goes to show a lot of the grace that these women have on how they're handling this.
BOLDUAN: And just, finally, I think, again, there's more to come, right? We don't -- even with Matt Lauer, right? We don't know, as Brian says, there's a lot of unknowns, still.
GUTHRIE: Right. Right. Well, with we know -- I mean, there has been some reporting this morning about an incident at the Olympics in 2014, which is what this complaint was about.
And so, we will be learning more. And all of these companies are looking at their staffs and looking at these people that they framed, these multi-million-dollar franchises around. I mean, the "Today" show is a $500 million franchise.
[11:10:00] BOLDUAN: That's exactly right, $500 million. What's your big takeaway this morning?
HACKETT: One more thing. You have to throw in the Megyn Kelly factor hear. Megyn Kelly joined the "Today" show from Fox, where she had been the victim of sexual harassment. That's a thread here that's going to play in this.
I think the takeaway is that these networks are taking it very seriously. As Brian said, if you're going to be reporting on, whether it's Congress, the president, the tech industry, as this wildfire grows, you cannot have anchors who are going to be, you know, part of the story, as well.
You have to move beyond that and even if it's $100 million franchise, you've got to deal with it, because it's going to come and roost at your door, if you don't.
BOLDUAN: And forget the dollar amount, but Brian, finally, and I think this takes us back to where we've been when it comes to Harvey Weinstein and when it came to Charlie Rose and now it is with Matt Lauer, that there is a very clear different standard for everyone else and then when we look at politicians.
STELTER: And you look at Washington on both sides of the aisle --
BOLDUAN: That's exactly right.
STELTER: -- Democrats or Republicans, there's this awkwardness, this discomfort among politicians to address the scandals in their own homes. We've seen a lot more leadership from corporate America, from the entertainment industry, and from the news industry on this issue.
Most importantly, there's an environment where these women feel comfortable coming forward. NBC heard a complaint, maybe they should have heard it years ago, but they heard a complaint on Monday night, they fired him on Tuesday night.
BOLDUAN: Guys, thank you for being here. Really appreciate it.
Coming up for us, still, unverified, violent, anti-Muslim videos, one allegedly showing a boy being beaten to death. That re-tweeted by the president of the United States. Why even his most loyal supporters are saying this one went too far. But how is the White House responding to this?
Plus, North Korea launching its most powerful missile yet and taunting President Trump already this morning. President Trump saying, we will take care of it. Also promising new sanctions. What are sanctions going to do now? What does this all mean? We'll be right back.
BOLDUAN: Inflammatory, incendiary, and for some people, inexcusable. Just three words to describe three anti-Muslim videos that President Trump presented to his nearly 44 million Twitter followers this morning. They were retweets of videos from Jada Francen, one of the controversial leaders of a far-right ultra-national political group in Great Britain.
The videos claim to show Muslims attacking people, and one of them shows two men smashing a statue of the Virgin Mary, although none of these videos have been verified. And now the White House is defending the president here.
Dan Merica is joining us from the White House and Phil Black is joining us from London to try to work through this. Dan, first to you, what is the White House actually defending here?
DAN MERICA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Hey, Kate. So, Sarah Sanders, after speaking with Fox News a few minutes ago, spoke with a few reporters before going into the west wing and she was pressed repeatedly on these videos. Does it matter that they're real? Why did the president retweet them? How did they get in front of him?
What her overarching defense was, it doesn't really matter whether the videos are real, because as she said, the threat is real. The threat of terrorism and that President Trump, as she said, re-tweeted these videos to start a conversation about border security and immigration.
I want to read to you exactly what she said. She was pushed by reporters about how re-tweeting these videos helped with border security, and she said that the reporters were talking about border security right now, we're talking about the need for it, so I think it is accomplishing exactly that.
When pressed on whether the videos were real, whether the White House or anyone in the Trump administration has backed up those videos, Sarah Sanders basically said, it doesn't really matter.
Here's exactly what she said, "Whether it is a real video, the threat is real. That is what the president is talking about, that is what the president is focused on dealing, those real threats. And those are real no matter how you look at it."
Now, she did not say how these videos got in front of President Trump to then be re-tweeted to his very powerful Twitter account. What we know is that most of the time, this hinges around Dan Scavino, a longtime Trump aide, who runs his Twitter account as the head of social media here at the White House.
We have repeatedly asked him questions about, did he find these videos? Where did he find them? And he hasn't responded. But so far, the White House is defending President Trump's decision to retweet those three videos -- Kate.
BOLDUAN: That's pretty amazing. Phil, I think some context here really matters. What is "Britain First?" This is the group that pushed out these videos.
PHIL BLACK, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So, if you talk to their members, Kate, they'll tell you they are Christian patriots. They love Britain, its traditional values, its people, and they believe all of these things are under threat by immigrants and in particular by the Islamic faith.
They fear what they described as the Islamification of Britain. That's one view, but really a much wider view is that they are divisive, racist, and extremist. The woman whose tweets President Trump has forwarded to the world today has been convicted for hate crimes, for abusing a Muslim woman on the street.
She has other charges pending, as well. And just a short time ago, we've been waiting for this, we have some comment from the British prime minister, Theresa May. This is a delicate issue for her, but she is being pretty clear here, says Trump was wrong to retweet these videos.
She says the "Britain First" seeks to divide communities through their use of hateful narratives, which peril lives, and stoke tensions. This is through a spokesperson, who goes on to say, British people overwhelmingly reject the prejudiced rhetoric of the far-right, which is the antithesis of the values that this country represents, decency, tolerance, and respect. Now, this is potentially a difficult issue going forward for the British prime minister because she's trying to maintain a close working relationship with Donald Trump. She's been criticized a lot for it, because his views, particularly on immigration and Islam are not very popular here.
[11:20:10] This is going to make it much harder for her to do that, politically, within this country.
BOLDUAN: Yes, I think stay close to your Twitter feed, Theresa May, see what Donald Trump has to say in response. Dan, thank you so much for bringing this. Phil, always great to have you. Thank you so much.
So, there's that and there is this, now to add into this conversation. Truthful hyperbole, that is what he called it in "The Art of The Deal," alternative facts, that is how his chief counselor, Kellyanne Conway, has described it.
What they cannot call it is objective reality. But that is not stopping the president, it appears, with new reports coming out that the president is still pushing debunked conspiracy theories and more.
"The New York Times" reports that he once again is questioning the authenticity of President Obama's birth certificate. In a new report, "The Times" and "The Washington Post" are also reporting that the president continues to question the authenticity of the "Access Hollywood" tape.
The very same "Access Hollywood" tape that he has already fessed up to and apologized for during the election. So, where is the reality here? And what is the president's relationship with it?
CNN politics reporter and editor-at-large, Chris Cilizza is here. White house reporter for "The Washington Post," Josh Dawsey is here as well.
I want to get to objective reality, but first let's start with this statement coming out from Sarah Sanders with what we are learning about these videos that the president just retweeted this morning and the White House defense of it.
Chris, what's your take? So, I think this is accomplishing exactly that. Talking about border security right now. Theresa May is now coming out saying that the president is wrong. Some of the president's most vocal supporters are coming out to say, you shouldn't have done that.
CHRIS CILIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER AND EDITOR-AT-LARGE: I mean, her statement is, to use a very popular phrase in academia, bananas, because it basically says, well, it doesn't matter if it's true or false. It makes the point. Well, of course, it matters if it's true or false.
BOLDUAN: It kind of all fits under the same umbrella. Does truth matter? Yes! CILIZZA: Well, the answer to that is, yes. You can debate whether Donald Trump, the president of the United States, should be retweeting videos, even if he knew they were accurate, retweeting videos from a far-right site that aims to -- that has a very sketchy reputation in England, that aims to foment anti-Islamic sentiment.
That's a very worthy debate and I think Donald Trump probably comes out on the wrong side of it, anyway. But to do so without knowing if they are actually -- we have seen lots of edited video since the internet has taken hold.
So, to do that without knowing that they're real and then for the official spokesperson of the government to say, it doesn't really matter if they're real or fake, they make the point, this is the definition of alternative facts.
This is the definition of, facts are fungible. That you're entitled to your own facts and your own opinions. None of those things I just said are true, but that's what we're getting out of the White House.
BOLDUAN: And Josh, this shocking, yes, incendiary, yes, this does not -- what he sent out today in terms of these videos, though, is not at odds with what we have heard from the president, though, in the past, from the election. I think Islam hates us.
And proposing that all Muslims be banned from entering the country fit under the same umbrella. But, when it comes to the president's relationship, though, with the truth, if you've been investigating, does this take it a step further?
JOSH DAWSEY, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": I don't know that it takes it a step further, but as you said, it's consistent with what we've seen in the past from the president. He's often shared conspiracy theories online. He shared websites that have been debunked.
He shared, you know, particular pieces of news that he presented as news that have not been confirmed in the middle of chaotic events that are still unfolding that have later proven wrong at times.
The president is not someone who says, you know, let me check this first and tweet later. He's someone who often goes straight to the keys. And if he sees something he likes or something that fits his narrative or his point of view, he'll just share it immediately and see what happens.
BOLDUAN: I do want to -- I want to move on to -- I want to continue this discussion. I think someone who should have a voice in this, I just want to read this tweet, is Brendan Cox. He might not sound familiar, but he is the husband of the British MP, who was murdered in 2016.
And several witnesses would, at the time of his wife's murder, the MP, the killer yelled "Britain First," which is this group that put these videos out. He wrote this on Twitter. "Trump has legitimatized the far right in his own country, now he's trying to do it in ours. Spreading hate has consequences and the president should be ashamed of himself." That from Brendan Cox, who has a very relationship with the reality of what these kinds of inflammatory ultra-right things can do.
But let's get back to this, Josh. You wrote about the president's relationship with reality and truth and fact. You wrote about all of this today.
[11:25:06] And what the president is telling people in terms of the "Access Hollywood" video is, it's really not me, I don't talk like that. I think is some of the quote that you guys have in your piece.
So, one, Trump is lying about this. It's either the one today or the one that apologized for it back in 2016 in terms of the tape we all know what the reality is in terms of the tape, but how are people reacting around him when he tells them this stuff?
DAWSEY: I think people were shocked. I mean, it's something that he has explicitly apologized for. It was an embarrassing, you know, part of his tenure and then he comes to aides and people around him say, does this sound like me? It doesn't sound like something I would say.
That's not me on the tape. And people just kind of roll their eyes or say, let's just move on. It's one of the many times we've seen the president try to bend facts or narratives to his own reality, and try to convince others it is so.
You know, from polls showing that he was losing and then him going on stage and saying that he was winning, from when bad things happen in the White House, like the health care failure or Russia indictments, he will often call friends and project confidence and exuberance and say how terrific things are going for him.
It's something where I think he even tries to convince some of his top advisers, aides, and friends that things are different than what they seem and that the facts actually show.
BOLDUAN: Add to that one, Chris, that he is now again questioning President Obama's birth certificate.
BOLDUAN: But let's not forget this moment from the campaign, that I will never forget, happened on this -- during this program. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: President Barack Obama was born in the United States, period.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: That, of course, you'll remember, was with like a 20, 30- minute lead-in of something else. But what gives? What gives here?
CILIZZA: I was going to note, as you did, Kate, that was at the opening of the new Trump Hotel in Washington, where he was facing this firestorm over, well, if you're going to be president, can you say definitively you do or do not think the guy that you're trying to replace was born in the United States.
He tacked that on at the very end of his speech and basically said, well, I've addressed this. What's going on? He never really stopped believing it, would be my very strong, educated guess. He is always, Josh touched on this, he is always, always telling himself a story about his life that occasionally comports with known established facts and often doesn't
He tells it to anyone who will listen, he tells it to his aides, to a U.S. senator. He's been doing this his whole life. I always remind people, go back and read the story that "The Washington Post," where Josh works now, where I used to work, wrote about Donald Trump creating a character named John Miller, who was allegedly a PR executive in the Trump Organization, and having John Miller make phone calls --
BOLDUAN: So it's not new, but does this stuff at some point have real consequences? I mean, there is truth in fact -- in -- welcome to the CNN brand of facts first, but --
CILIZZA: Prior to the 2016 election, I would say, absolutely, that the American people say, wait a minute, you know, it's the old, you're entitled to your own opinions, not your own facts. After the 2016 election, it feels as though there is a largish chunk of the public who thinks you're entitled to both your own facts and your own opinions. If that wasn't the case, at least on that day, November 8th with, 2016, Donald Trump never wins.
BOLDUAN: I don't -- final thought, Josh, I got to go.
DAWSEY: I think we've just seen, through bankruptcies, marriages, professional failures, and successes, his whose career, Trump has just always been selling, always makes something better than it appears, and now it's the president of the United States, a big vindication of his live. I don't think we'll see a change anytime soon.
BOLDUAN: I think the one thing is the sales job, selling a brand. I think another thing is actual objective reality.
CILIZZA: He sees no difference, though, Kate, between the two.
BOLDUAN: What the former president's birth certificate has on it. Well, I see a difference and I need to say it.
CILIZZA: We should see a difference.
BOLDUAN: Thank you, Josh. Thank you, Chris. Coming up, north Korea claiming it's developed a missile that CNN -- North Korea claiming it has a missile that now they claim can reach the east coast of the United States. Today, President Trump is now firing back on Twitter, of course, promising major sanctions, in his words, will now be imposed on North Korea. What could those be? What impact would they have at this point after this development? We'll be right back.