What Did NBC Know About Matt Lauer, and When?

“Everybody knew that Matt Lauer was having inappropriate relationships with women,” says a former “Today” producer

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NBC says no one at the network knew anything about the accusations of sexual misconduct against Matt Lauer before Monday night. But a growing number of people find that hard to believe.

Two former “Today” producers who worked closely with Lauer told TheWrap that his transgressions were widely known.

“Everybody knew that Matt Lauer was having inappropriate relationships with women,” said a former “Today” producer who worked on the show for 12 years. “Most of the senior leadership was too.”

“It was definitely a boys club,” said another former producer. “They loved their sexy young interns.”

Another “Today” show staffer called Lauer’s inappropriate behavior “an open secret” and described NBC as “a cesspool of affairs and hook-ups.”

A fourth individual, a current senior NBC official, added that Lauer’s philandering was aided by a former booker, Matthew Zimmerman, who himself was fired this month for what a network spokesperson called “inappropriate conduct with more than one woman at NBCU.”

Lauer apologized Thursday: “There are no words to express my sorrow and regret for the pain I have caused others by words and actions. To the people I have hurt, I am truly sorry,” he said, without responding to specific accusations. “As I am writing this, I realize the depth of the damage and disappointment I have left behind at home and at NBC.”

Lauer’s “Today” co-host announced his exit Wednesday, two days after NBC said it first received a detailed accusation against Lauer. Variety and the New York Times followed up with specific details of the accusations against him, which included allegations that he gave a sex toy to one co-worker and exposed himself to another.

“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,” an NBC spokesperson told TheWrap. The network added that it was “not aware of any settlements” related to their former star.

Jeff Zucker, the president of CNN and Lauer’s former boss at “Today,” denied knowing anything about problems with Lauer.

“No one ever brought to me, or to my knowledge, there was never, there was never a complaint about Matt,” Zucker said during an interview at Business Insider’s Ignition conference in Manhattan on Thursday. “There was never a suggestion of that kind of deviant, predatory behavior. Not even a whisper of it, nothing like that.”

The credibility of NBC’s denials was also very publicly called into question by one of the company’s brightest former stars, Keith Olbermann. The former host of MSNBC’s first breakout hit, “Countdown With Keith Olbermann” from 2003 to 2011, took to Twitter Wednesday to accuse his former bosses of enabling Lauer.

“Matt Lauer was remorselessly vindictive and tyrannical to everyone at NBC News and management repeatedly enabled and buried the issue,” Olbermann wrote.

But the new accusations sent internet sleuths a-sleuthing after old stories that now seem like warning signs — like the time Katie Couric bluntly told Andy Cohen in 2012 that Lauer “pinches me on the ass a lot.”

Variety said it contacted NBC about accusations of sexual impropriety before the Thanksgiving holiday, but it’s unclear exactly what happened afterwards.

A network spokesperson declined to comment. A person familiar with the matter said there were “conversations” with Lauer about the Variety investigation, but that “nothing came up that would suggest any sexual harassment on his part.”

Several insiders also pointed to NBC’s use of the word “current” in its “unequivocal” denials, which they say suggests calculated ambiguity.

“The statement was very carefully worded,” said one former “Today” staffer who worked on the show for years. “It officially only covers the last two years or so, since [NBC News chief] Andy Lack took over. Also, they didn’t say they weren’t aware of Matt Lauer’s conduct. Instead they claim they were unaware of complaints about his conduct, which are two different things.”

Employees of NBC also spoke of a climate of numbness and mistrust.

“It’s a weird time,” said one. “At the ‘Today’ show I’ve asked my friends; they don’t want to talk about it at all.”