A week after NBC fired Matt Lauer, the ousted anchor is still reeling.
“He is weak and broken and ashamed by his own admission,” one of Lauer’s former Today show colleagues tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue.
“He is my friend,” the colleague adds. “He is human, and he is flawed. But is he going to use his power to be a predator on women? Until I see solid evidence of that, I just can’t believe it. We don’t know the details.”
Lauer, 59, was terminated after the network received a “detailed complaint from a colleague about inappropriate sexual behavior,” with reason to believe “this may not have been an isolated incident.” A source later told PEOPLE that Lauer was let go due to sexual misconduct with that woman throughout 2014, including at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. (Another source with knowledge of the situation said Lauer had viewed this relationship as “consensual” and was “dumbfounded” by the accusation.)
In the wake of his firing, several insiders have told PEOPLE that the veteran morning host was allegedly often unfaithful to his wife of 19 years, Annette Roque. Women have also anonymously accused him of sexual harassment and assault in reports published by Variety and The New York Times.
“All of us are career women, and not one of us would have put up with an environment that’s as distasteful as has been described,” the colleague insists. “There was never anything I was offended by on any level. I wouldn’t have put up with it. Neither would any of us.”
Lauer — who joined the network in 1992 as a newsreader on Today, had been co-anchor of the morning show since January 1997 and reportedly signed a $20 million dollar contract last year — broke his silence on the allegations in a statement read Thursday morning by his former co-hosts on-air.
“There are no words to express my sorrow and regret for the pain I have caused others by words and actions,” he said. “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.”
“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. I regret that my shame is now shared by the people I cherish dearly,” he continued. “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 people I love. I thank them for their patience and grace.”
Another Today staffer told PEOPLE that most employees inside Rockefeller Center are heartbroken over what’s transpired and torn between the man they knew and the Lauer portrayed by his accusers.
“The reason people are so upset and people are crying on our staff, which is like 80 percent women, is because he was really loved and treated people really well,” the staffer said. “And it’s shocking to think that there could be this side.”