Matt Lauer expressed “sorrow and regret for the pain I have caused” in a statement on Thursday morning, his first public comments after NBC News fired the star “Today” show anchor amid allegations of inappropriate sexual behavior with colleagues.
“Some of what is being said about me is untrue or mischaracterized, but there is enough truth in these stories to make me feel embarrassed and ashamed,” Mr. Lauer wrote in a message issued by his public relations team. “I regret that my shame is now shared by the people I cherish dearly.”
“There are no words to express my sorrow and regret for the pain I have caused others by words and actions,” Mr. Lauer wrote. “To the people I have hurt, I am truly sorry. As I am writing this I realize the depth of the damage and disappointment I have left behind at home and at NBC.”
Mr. Lauer’s abrupt downfall comes amid a head-spinning series of harassment and abuse claims that have toppled powerful men in journalism, comedy, Hollywood and Silicon Valley, including the movie mogul Harvey Weinstein and another famed television morning host, Charlie Rose of CBS.
By Thursday, NBC had received at least three complaints related to Mr. Lauer, including from a former employee who said that the anchor sexually assaulted her in his office in 2001. Another woman, who spoke with NBC executives on Monday evening, described interactions with Mr. Lauer that began while covering the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
Mr. Lauer’s statement concluded: “Repairing the damage will take a lot of time and soul-searching and I’m committed to beginning that effort. It is now my full-time job. The last two days have forced me to take a very hard look at my own troubling flaws. It’s been humbling. I am blessed to be surrounded by the people I love. I thank them for their patience and grace.”
A fixture of American living rooms for more than two decades, Mr. Lauer was uncharacteristically silent on Wednesday in the wake of his firing, which left the television industry stunned and dominated headlines around the country. His former co-host on the “Today” show, Savannah Guthrie, read his statement aloud at the start of Thursday’s 7 a.m. broadcast, saying the program had received Mr. Lauer’s remarks just moments before going on air.
“It is a difficult morning here again,” Ms. Guthrie said at the beginning of the show, as headlines flashed onscreen about “Troubling Allegations” involving the man who, until Tuesday, had welcomed millions of Americans every morning to the same broadcast.
Stephanie Gosk, an NBC News correspondent, came on set to present a report on the allegations against Mr. Lauer, describing him as “one of the most high-profile faces of the sexual harassment firestorm engulfing this country.” Ms. Gosk confirmed a report in The New York Times that two additional women had filed complaints about Mr. Lauer to NBC News on Wednesday, in the hours after the anchor’s firing was announced, bringing the total number of complaints against him to three.
In a sign of how dominant the issue of harassment has become, much of Thursday’s “Today” program touched on allegations of abuse and misconduct. Ms. Guthrie conducted an interview with Marion Brown, who described being harassed by Representative John Conyers of Michigan, who is at the center of his own scandal.
Megyn Kelly, the host of the show’s 9 a.m. hour, used her opening segment to invite Mr. Lauer’s accusers, and Mr. Lauer, to appear with her on the show.
“We have been that place in all the other cases, and we will be that place, as well as for the accused, here on this hour,” Ms. Kelly said, looking into the camera.
Citing allegations from various news reports, Ms. Kelly also spent more time describing Mr. Lauer’s alleged misbehavior than his former co-hosts in the show’s 7 a.m. hour had.
Still, some members of the “Today” team found room for lighter fare. Ms. Guthrie and Mr. Lauer’s substitute, Hoda Kotb, gushed about the lighting of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree on Wednesday evening, a live television event that Mr. Lauer had been scheduled to co-host (he did not appear). And when the meteorologist Al Roker came onscreen for his first weather report, he adopted his usual perky mien.
“You know what today is?” Mr. Roker said chirpily to his co-hosts. “It is the last day of hurricane season!”
He added, happily, “Let’s get rid of this thing.”