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PRIMETIME JUSTICE WITH ASHLEIGH BANFIELD

Mariah Woods Still Missing; Big Star Falling from NBC; TV Host Fired; Suspected Serial Killer Caught; Manhunt For Suspect. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired November 29, 2017 - 20:00:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[20:00:00] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just bring her home, please, safe and sound.

ASHLEY BANFIELD, HOST: A mother`s desperate plea.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I love her. I`ll do anything.

BANFIELD: Her 3-year-old daughter simply vanished from her bed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just not making sense to me. About where she could be at, who she could be with.

BANFIELD: But the toddler`s dad has plenty to say.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Somebody comes up and snatches a baby and walks out?

BANFIELD: As the search for maybe Mariah takes a dark turn to the sewers. Affable, lovable, untouchable, and fired.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace by Matt Lauer.

BANFIELD: The top dog of morning TV out after allegations of sexual misconduct, the kind he himself covered.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You were probably the last guy in the world that they wanted to fire.

BANFIELD: So what did Matt Lauer do?

Spotted on the road after disappearing overnight.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We definitely know they`re together.

BANFIELD: A 17-year-old girl with a soccer coach 10 years older.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A person of authority over her at the school.

BANFIELD: Her parents call him a family friend.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now, I mean, I texted him first thing that morning.

BANFIELD: But is he looking for something more with their daughter?

People who know him say he`s a wall flower.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When this individual rots in hell.

BANFIELD: But tonight he`s locked up and being called a serial killer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Charge Howell Donaldson with four counts of first degree murder.

BANFIELD: How police determined this so-called nice guy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because the gun is what we need.

BANFIELD: Killed four random strangers and haunted the city of Tampa.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good prevailed over evil after 51 long, long days.

BANFIELD: A savage beat down caught on camera.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sweetest girl ever.

BANFIELD: A gas station clerk dragged by her hair.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s heartless. It`s cold. It`s calculating.

BANFIELD: And beaten till bloody.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If he did it like this, this is not his first time.

BANFIELD: The man who did it still out there tonight.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your eyes are all red. You look like you`ve been crying.

BANFIELD: A Thanksgiving fight and stop.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get out of the car, you`re under arrest.

BANFIELD: But the person at the business end of the taser...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get out of the car, now!

BANFIELD: Ends up being the cop`s partner.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: Hi, everybody. I`m Ashleigh Banfield. This is Primetime Justice.

Tonight, nothing is off limits in one North Carolina town. A ditch, a neighbor`s shed, the sewers. Because there could be signs anywhere of 3-

year-old Mariah Woods, that adorable little girl who disappeared from her bed in the middle of the night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HANS MILLER, SHERIFF, ONSLOW COUNTY: We have searched hundreds of acres of Onslow County by foot, by air and with dogs, K-9s. Agents and investigators

with more than 14 local, state and federal agencies have also conducted nearly 100 interviews and have followed more than 140 leads.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: Meanwhile, Mariah`s mom is on a mission of her own, begging whoever may have taken her to bring her baby back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KRISTY WOODS, MARIAH WOODS MOTHER: Please, bring her back. I love her. I`d do anything that I can, whatever you want. Just bring her home, please,

safe and sound. She`s my baby. She`s my everything. Everything in the world just to be able to touch her and hold her, and not let her go again. I`d

give anything.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: She says that sometime around midnight on Sunday night, her live-in boyfriend tells her he sent Mariah back to bed when that little

girl woke up late that night.

In the morning, Mariah was gone and nearly 72 hours later, we still don`t know where Mariah is. Her disappearance is virtually a mystery.

Merrilee Moore is a reporter for CNN affiliate WCTI and he joins me live from Jacksonville, North Carolina. Merrilee, thanks so much for being with

us. What is the very latest on the efforts to find this little girl?

MERRILEE MOORE, REPORTER, WCTI: Well, Ashleigh, as you saw during the press conference today, we were given some information and then they dance

around a lot more of our questions, but we do know new information from that press conference that they are treating this as a focused incident,

which means at this point not really looking at a threat to the public.

[20:05:02] So, that is new information they`re giving us and the fact that this is still a massive search. We`re on three days now and still no sign

of where she went, of course, following dozens of leads, over 140 leads as Sheriff Miller said during that press conference, but still a very active

crime scene.

I just left it about an hour and a half ago and still a lot of searching around that house where Mariah Woods went missing around a shed. There`s a

shed behind the house and some of the sheds next door to the neighbors, so still lots of investigating going on.

BANFIELD: So, a hundred different interviews. Like you said, more than 140 leads that they`re looking into, Merrilee. But what`s so critical in a

situation like this, as in any child who goes missing, is the people close to her.

And that would be mom and the live-in boyfriend. And I just want to play something if I can something from the news conference today. People really

zeroed in on this. This is about how much they`ve cooperated in the investigation. Have a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MILLER: We have interviewed and they`ve provided information to us and obviously, you know, we see no -- well, let me put it this way. We`ve

talked to them. They talked to us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: Merrilee, what did that mean?

MOORE: Listen, we tried to get him to answer that question several times during that press conference, and a little bit after that he -- we were

zeroing in on that again and we asked, hey, do you have any of these family members in custody, the mom or the live-in boyfriend? Are they at the

sheriff`s department?

And afterward he sort of chuckled a little bit, I think he was a little bit nervous when he said, I don`t know where they are. I don`t know if that`s

for him to try to dance around that question because maybe he does know and they don`t want to reveal that at this time. They may be staying with

family or they might be staying in the Onslow County jail. We do not know.

(CROSSTALK)

BANFIELD: But typically when someone goes missing, the mom or dad or live- in boyfriend or any family members is screaming at any microphone that is within reach to get their message out there. And as I understand that mom

was not even at the press conference today. And live-in boyfriend who was apparently the last one to see this little girl hasn`t gone to a microphone

at all. Am I wrong?

MOORE: You are absolutely correct. The only time that we have seen Mariah`s mother was at the scene on Monday. And Tuesday, Wednesday, no sign

of mom, no sign of live-in boyfriend. Both of them were on the scene up until Monday night. But Tuesday and Wednesday have not been able to lay

eyes on them.

BANFIELD: OK. So there`s this moment I want to play from the press conference, if I can, just to get the feel of the public down there,

because I`m getting the sense that a lot of the neighbors are really angry. They want more information.

Clearly if a little girl is plucked out of her bed by a boogeyman, there`s a monster on the loose. And it doesn`t feel like you just mentioned they

said this is an isolated incident, but I want to play this little moment at the end of the news conference when the public was wanting more, desperate

for more, here`s how they sounded. Take a look.

We don`t have that, unfortunately. So let me paraphrase what we heard. People screaming and yelling, asking why can`t we get more information? But

I am fascinated by that because you would think that the police would be very worried if there was a monster still on the loose. Do we not get the

sense that there`s a monster still on the loose?

MOORE: Well, here`s the thing. I`ve been speaking to neighbors, goodness, ever since this began. The neighbors are very into this investigation, and

they want to do as much as they can and this was the first time I`ve seen this many just civilians present at a press conference and asking the

questions themselves.

They want answers, and after this press conference, they came up to me and said, why don`t we have more from these investigators? And on one hand you

have to believe, look, they`re doing their job and maybe if they give out too much information, it could hinder the investigation. We don`t know.

That`s for them to know and us to find out.

BANFIELD: A lot of unanswered questions. Obviously. Stand by if you will, Merrilee, for a moment. I want to bring in Alex Woods, he`s Mariah`s

biological father and Heather Craft, is his fiance, they join me live now from Jacksonville, North Carolina as well.

Alex, can I begin with you, what are police telling you about the disappearance of your daughter?

ALEX WOODS, MARIAH WOODS FATHER: They aren`t really saying a bunch right now. They`re trying to keep, you know, keep it under control so nothing

gets leaked out and, you know, just people don`t run with whatever people say.

HEATHER CRAFT, ALEX WOODS` FIANCE: What they have told us so far is that it`s a good thing in a way that they have not been able -- that they`re not

keeping in contact with us much because we were ruled out as suspects and all the information that they keep receiving from other people is like so

many different leads and there is not one story that`s been repeated several times. Like, they cannot get the same story right.

(CROSSTALK)

BANFIELD: So, Heather, I want to make sure I heard you right. I want to make sure I heard you right, Heather.

[20:09:59] You just said they have ruled you out as suspects? They`ve ruled you and Alex out as suspects? Confirm that.

WOODS: Yes.

CRAFT: Yes.

WOODS: We are no longer suspects.

(CROSSTALK)

CRAFT: We are no longer suspects.

BANFIELD: Who told you that?

WOODS: We are clear.

CRAFT: The detective, the lead detective, the FBI detective.

BANFIELD: OK. Did they ask you to take a polygraph test at any point?

CRAFT: No. And we are wondering, trying to find out and asking why they have not made the other two -- the mother and her boyfriend take a

polygraph yet.

BANFIELD: Have you offered to take polygraph tests, both of you?

CRAFT: Yes. Alex has.

WOODS: Yes, we`ve asked social media and detectives...

(CROSSTALK)

CRAFT: And all...

WOODS: ... and they -- they`re just saying like...

(CROSSTALK)

CRAFT: They haven`t taken it yet.

WOODS: Like there isn`t time for it yet. They`re kind of dodging the question and it isn`t coming out with a straight answer really.

BANFIELD: So, Alex, to be clear, you have offered to law enforcement to take a polygraph test and they have declined your invitation? They have

said no, thank you?

WOODS: They have not asked me to take one, but I would, absolutely, I would. I have nothing to hide.

CRAFT: Yes.

BANFIELD: So, Alex, did you...

(CROSSTALK)

WOODS: They know...

BANFIELD: Did you offer to the police -- I know they didn`t ask you. Did you offer to the police to take a poly?

WOODS: Do what?

CRAFT: Did you offer?

BANFIELD: Did you offer to take the polygraph test.

WOODS: No, has not offered.

BANFIELD: OK. And Heather, what about you, did you offer to take the...

(CROSSTALK)

WOODS: No. I`m not yet. I mean, I offered.

BANFIELD: ... polygraph test.

CRAFT: No, I told him -- well, we did tell them we`d do anything that they need us to do, like we`re full cooperation with the detectives.

WOODS: They want us to, we would.

(CROSSTALK)

CRAFT: We`ve done everything they`ve asked us to do on our end, on gathering other information about other things that they do need.

BANFIELD: Yes.

CRAFT: From us. And so it`s been ongoing process with us. We are working close with the detectives and gathering evidence.

WOODS: Social media.

BANFIELD: OK. Let me ask you.

CRAFT: But not on this case. It`s another case, so it`s not.

BANFIELD: Alex, let me ask you this question. You know, Mariah`s mom, Kristy Woods, lives in this trailer with her live-in boyfriend and your

daughter and your two sons. That would be a lot of people in a small environment where a little girl goes missing.

And it is not the first time that has happened. We`ve seen this happen before. We saw it happen with Jessica Lunsford. We saw it happened with

Elizabeth Smart.

So the proverbial boogeyman does break into homes where grown-ups are sleeping sometimes right next to children and does stake them. But as I

understand it, you don`t believe that to be the case?

WOODS: No, I mean, like there was two brothers, you know. And the mom and her boyfriend, like for somebody to just -- I mean, it could happen. But I

feel 100 percent that that`s not what happened.

I mean, for one, I don`t feel like she just got up and walked out. I mean, and for two, I don`t feel that anybody just walked up in there and picked

her up because it seems like to me she`d wake up and start crying and screaming and I don`t know if they got a dog or whatever, but they used to.

If the dogs didn`t go to barking or, you know, the brothers never woke up. They never woke up. It just -- it don`t seem like it would fit. I feel like

something more is to it and they`re trying to cover it up.

BANFIELD: Alex, what do you think happened?

WOODS: Honestly, I think her boyfriend got mad or Kristy got mad and the little girl woke up, Mariah woke up and was crying, whatever, she wanted to

go back to bed or something like that, and they got mad because they got anger problems and they might have, you know, smacked her or something like

that and hurt her.

CRAFT: Panicked.

WOODS: Maybe, maybe hurt her more than just a smack. And maybe panicked. And maybe done something bad with her. I mean, that`s what we`re thinking

because, like, the other two stories, that just don`t, they don`t add up, I mean. There was no forced entry aim for the doors.

BANFIELD: Alex, we have to, you know, obviously, as the investigation continues, CNN and HLN has no confirmation of anything that has happened in

that trailer.

[02:14:57] There have been no charges levied, no one, as we understand at this point, is a person of interest in this case that they`re making public

in any way.

I do want to say in an interview you said you were concerned that something like this was going to happen. I want to ask you, very, very clearly. Do

you think that your daughter is alive tonight?

WOODS: Do I think she`s alive? Is that what you asked me?

BANFIELD: Yes.

CRAFT: As a parent...

(CROSSTALK)

WOODS: As a parent...

CRAFT: We want to believe yes.

WOODS: ... and keep the faith and hope, I would love to say yes. But...

CRAFT: But knowing what we`ve been going through.

WOODS: And deep down in my heart and got that little feeling, it`s not looking good at all. I mean, she`s been gone for three days. Nobody`s found

her. The dogs that I know got no real scent trail on her. I have to say no, but I can`t think that. You know? I keep telling...

(CROSSTALK)

CRAFT: But we want to believe she`s out there.

WOODS: Yes. Got to think positive.

CRAFT: She`s out there.

BANFIELD: I understand.

WOODS: Somebody`s got her. Somebody`s got her somewhere and they`re eventually going to be like, here, here she is. You know?

BANFIELD: Can I ask you until that time, you know, we`ve covered so many cases of not only kids who have gone missing and haven`t been found but

kids who have gone missing and have been found like Elizabeth Smart.

And so often at the very beginning, as you will well understand I`m guessing by this point the very first focal point is family, which means

you as well. And I want to ask you because other family members who have been in this situation before have said that they felt the pressure and

pain from the public.

They felt like they were under the microscope. They felt as if they were guilty before they were proven innocent. I wanted to ask you if you have

felt those same vibes, if you`ve had that same treatment from the public, the police or anybody else that you`ve been in contact with since this all

began?

WOODS: Do what? I`m not sure of the question.

BANFIELD: Have you felt at all -- have you felt like others have been accusing you of being involved in some way? Have you felt as though you`ve

not been treated as you`re innocent but instead have been assumed guilty in any way in this story?

WOODS: I don`t feel that nobody thinks that I`ve been involved except, you know, her family, you know. Because, of course, they aren`t going to want

to say, you know, yes, my daughter had something to do with it. You know? I mean, nobody really wants to say that.

So, as far as like the general public and everything like that, as far as I know, everybody, all the comments on Facebook and all the people that I`ve

seen and stuff like that, they say prayers and stuff like that. So I have to feel that no, nobody thinks that.

BANFIELD: Have you both been out there searching?

WOODS: Yes. We have searched. We have helped. They don`t really want us to go out there and search and be involved in it too much because we got so

much...

(CROSSTALK)

CRAFT: They need us on this end with more -- with other legal things pertaining to gathering the other legal documents and everything that we

have from over a year ago, that with the custody battle we`re just going through. So like they asked us for the search, they don`t -- they said

since we were ruled out as suspects, they don`t really want us in that area.

WOODS: And for us to go out there and get lost or something like that, too.

CRAFT: And they`re telling us what to do and what they need. And so we`re working with them personally on gathering other evidence.

(CROSSTALK)

WOODS: If they want us to, we`d absolutely go at the drop of a dime. If they call and say, you`re more than welcome to come on...

(CROSSTALK)

CRAFT: Yes, we`re just waiting.

WOODS: ... we`d be right there.

CRAFT: Because we`ve been trying and they keep telling us no.

BANFIELD: Alex Woods and Heather Craft. Our hearts go out to you as you try to get through this journey. And we are hoping the best for you. We

have that same optimism that you do as well. And I hope we can talk again under a very different circumstance. Thank you to both of you for helping

us through this tonight.

CRAFT: Thank you, miss.

WOODS: I hope the next time we talk to you, we got our precious baby girl in our arms.

(CROSSTALK)

CRAFT: We just want everyone to continue to pray.

WOODS: We just see her beautiful smile.

CRAFT: Just continue to look for her.

WOODS: Daddy wants to see you so bad, Mariah, I love you so much. I miss you. We`re not quitting. We love you, we want to bring you home. Love you,

Mariah.

BANFIELD: Don`t give up, don`t give up. I think you will hear that from Ed Smart. Don`t give up. Thanks to both of you.

[20:19:51] We`re going to move to another very big story today. NBC Today Show star Matt Lauer is out of work tonight and staying very quiet amid

reports that more women have been accusing him of sexual harassment.

This could be just the beginning of a scandal that is shaking the foundation of 30 Rock.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From NBC News, this is today with Katie Couric and Matt Lauer.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: NBC News is reporting that veteran Today Show anchor Matt Lauer has been fired.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is a sad morning here today at NBC News.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: NBC`s Matt Lauer has been fired.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Over inappropriate sexual behavior.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We`ve decided to terminate his employment.

[20:25:00] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A sickening feeling of deja vu.

MATT LAUER, FORMER HOST, NBC NEWS: You were probably the last guy in the world that they wanted to fire because you were the guy that the ratings

and the revenues were built on. You carried that network on your shoulders for a lot of years.

So doesn`t it seem safe to assume that the people at Fox News were given a piece of information or given some evidence that simply made it impossible

for you to stay on at Fox News?

(CROSSTALK)

BILL O`REILLY, FORMER FOX NEWS HOST: Smoking gun...

LAUER: But you don`t let your number one guy go unless you have information that you think makes him...

O`REILLY: That`s not true.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Matt Lauer is an institution there.

LAUER: They came forward and filed complaints against the biggest star at the network they worked at.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is Matt`s most annoying habit?

KATIE COURIC, HOST, YAHOO NEWS: He pinches me on the ass a lot.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How do you reconcile your love for someone with the revelation that they have behaved badly?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is today on NBC.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: And the complaints seem to be stacking up. Both the New York Times and the magazine Variety now reporting more women with lewd stories

about one of America`s favorite TV anchormen, Matt Lauer, and what he reportedly did at work, like summoning a woman to his office for sex, as

the New York Times reported, or, according to Variety showing a colleague his male private parts and giving another colleague a sex toy and telling

her in an explicit note attached how he would use it on her.

CNN has not independently confirmed any of these allegations or the reporting. Lauer, himself, no comment. And NBC is saying current management

was never made aware of any complaints about Matt Lauer`s conduct officially until Monday.

That`s when a woman came forward accusing him of sexual misconduct while reportedly working at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Tuesday

the network investigated, and here we are, Wednesday morning he was fired.

The news came as a shock to households across the country because, after 20 years of hosting the Today Show, Matt Lauer is arguably the king of morning

television.

And for his colleagues, today, I mean, the picture said it. This was brutal.

Joining me now, CNN senior media correspondent and host of Reliable Sources, Brian Stelter, CNN special correspondent, Jamie Gangel. Jamie

spent 30 years plus at NBC News, much of it at the Today Show, and attorney Nancy Erica Smith. She won Gretchen Carlson`s $20 million settlement with

Fox News. Also with us is defense attorney Areva Martin.

Brian, I want to begin with you because the reporting is sort of spilling out almost too quickly to be able to script it. But there`s been a lot that

has come up just in the last hour. Walk me through the headlines.

BRIAN STELTER, SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT, CNN: I think it`s notably that NBC has received two new complaints today. That`s according to the New York

Times. Two new complaints from women who had not previously contacted the network`s H.R. department.

You know, one of the themes of the last two months whether it`s Harvey Weinstein or Matt Lauer or all the men in between is that some women don`t

believe they can go to H.R. or go to the legal department and report alleged misconduct.

So, NBC said it hadn`t heard any complaints officially filed to H.R. until this week, until Monday when one woman called and made the allegation about

what happened at the Olympics in 2014. That has what triggered the firing this morning. But we knew there were New York Times and Variety stories in

the works. So I think really what happened is you`ve seen NBC it was trying to get ahead of these other allegations.

BANFIELD: The whole official thing, I get it. You know, I worked at NBC.

STELTER: Yes.

BANFIELD: I walked into the president`s office, not the current president -- let`s be really clear -- and I made a complaint that someone called me a

slut on the air. And I was turned around and physically pushed out of the office saying I was making it a bigger deal than I needed it to be.

STELTER: Wow.

BANFIELD: But I didn`t go to H.R. and write up a memo.

STELTER: Right. There`s no filing about.

(CROSSTALK)

BANFIELD: But is there a difference? But is there a difference?

STELTER: Don`t you think that on the corporate level it gives them the ability to have plausible deniability, to claim, we didn`t officially know.

I mean, that`s a shame that any executive would turn you around and not take that seriously, but perhaps it gives the company some way of saying we

didn`t know.

BANFIELD: Yes. You can Google it, by the way for contemporaneous evidence. It was Michael Savage.

(CROSSTALK)

STELTER: Savage was on the air.

BANFIELD: He called me. I think it was the news slut with the big pair of glasses prior to eye surgery.

So you know, these are the kinds of things that women just sort of deal with, move on. The stuff that they`re talking about with Matt Lauer is not

like that.

STELTER: Well, we`ve got an allegation from Variety that one point he dropped his pants, showed his private parts to a woman and when she refused

to participate in a sex act with him, he reprimanded her. Only that is the kind of thing that H.R. and legal would know about. And I would expect

there would have been action if there have been a complaint filed.

But if you`re going against Matt Lauer and he`s the biggest star at the network and he`s paid $20 million a year, I can absolutely understand why

someone would be terrified to come forward.

[20:29:56] By the way, the alacrity with which this all happened, we have the mechanics. I think you found out the timing of when everybody actually

found out this news.

STELTER: Savannah Guthrie found out at 4:00 in the morning. When she woke up in the morning, she was told her co-host had been fired. You know, on a

personal level, that is a horrible, horrible situation to be in. She is truly friends with Matt Lauer. Sometimes on these morning shows, they`re

faking it. They`re not really family (ph).

BANFIELD: Sure.

STELTER: In this case, this is a real friendship. A real friendship. You see how Savannah hugging there during one of the commercial breaks. This

was a very, very difficult day for the two of them.

BANFIELD: And then just mechanically just to go inside baseball for our audience, there`s a lot of stuff that happens to put a show on the air.

There`s a rundown, it`s in the computer. Dozens if not hundreds of people have access to it. So if Matt Lauer is not at work at, say, 6:49 a.m. --

STELTER: That`s right.

BANFIELD: -- you would think the staff would know. And yet, they didn`t.

STELTER: I think lot of staffers, lower little staffers were shocked when the memo came out at 6:49, 11 minutes before air time, saying he had been

fired. And then Savannah of course announced it on the air at 7:00 a.m.

NBC was trying to get ahead of it. I think they were expecting more embarrassing stories. They succeeded in some way by doing that. This is the

first time in the two months of this Weinstein effect that we`ve seen a company trying to be proactive and fire someone before the stories came out

about allegations.

But the question now is whether more beyond The New York Times, beyond Variety, beyond the allegations today, if other women will come forward.

NBC clearly believes this was a very serious charge that was made on Monday night.

BANFIELD: And a couple of other things. We`re talking about the rumor to be $25 million man, arguably top guy in morning television, in a battle

between GMA and the "Today" show that anybody could win. Now, not so much.

STELTER: This is a shake-up moment for all these shows. CBS is without its lead anchorman in the morning. Charlie Rose was fired last week. Now NBC

without its lead anchorman in the morning.

BANFIELD: So this decision is not made because there`s a whisper rumor, there`s a concern. You could be consigning this program, the biggest

moneymaker for NBC, right?

STELTER: Yes.

BANFIELD: You could be consigning it to a decade of money losing.

STELTER: It could fall behind in the ratings, the ratings race is very intense between "Today" and "GMA" and "CBS This Morning." You`re right. The

show will have a very hard time at least in the short term without Matt Lauer, but that all indicates that this woman who came forward on Monday,

must have had a convincing evidence, that she must have had a compelling case of alleged wrongdoing.

BANFIELD: Jamie Gangel, I had the same reaction I think you did. I had to pick my jaw up off the kitchen floor. I checked my iPhone to see how I

missed the CNN reporting on it. Nobody knew until they knew Savannah announcing it.

STELTER: Yes.

BANFIELD: And there are all of these friends and colleagues who I am sure you did the same thing, you called them all, what the hell just happened?

But you have the, you know, the unique experience of having lived the life in those doors. And it`s not the story that you lived.

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Not at all. No one condones harassment of any kind. And we still do not know a lot, you know, details

about what happened. But I think what Brian said is true. It must be very compelling for them to have taken this action as quickly as they did with

the biggest star in, you know, at NBC.

I will say this. I was not surprised for one reason because we knew people were working. We knew reporters were working on stories. Someone from The

New York Times had called me on Monday. So, we knew things were in the works just as we know there are other harassment stories and targets being

investigated.

I was shocked about the charges. I`ve known him for more than 20 years. We worked very closely together. I never heard or saw anything in his behavior

that would lead me to believe that he would harass anybody. So that part was a shock.

BANFIELD: And I have to say the same thing. Every single interaction I had with Matt Lauer, he was the consummate professional, the kindest man, #and

just an all-around good guy. The people I called today, all of the colleagues that I, you know, tapped as sources today, no one wanted to be

public.

There`s still the reverberations of what could happen. Fifty percent of them said, oh, please, we`ve all known. The other 50 percent said, I still

can`t believe it`s Matt. Did you have that sense?

GANGEL: Everybody I`ve spoken to was shocked about it. I did not -- and one of the things I think is very interesting in all of these pieces and in the

NBC reporting is, these women have all stayed anonymous. And I on the one hand completely understand that, but in this climate, we have had a lot of

women come forward and people have felt empowered and emboldened to come forward.

[20:35:00] But not in this instance. And I don`t know why that is. It may be because people feel that Matt was so popular, that --

(CROSSTALK)

GANGEL: They may be scared. They may be young women. But they do not feel, these women do not feel empowered in the same way that other women do.

BANFIELD: So, Nancy Erika Smith, that brings me to this, I think, critical point. We all want to (INAUDIBLE) like we`re in some new world, but it

takes the media and the pressure of a big investigative bombshell for this kind of thing to happen. It doesn`t take the woman who comes in and says,

someone on the air just called me a slut, or I think my boss has been behaving really badly for several years.

NANCY ERIKA SMITH, LAWYER: Well, that`s because of the culture we`ve lived in until Gretchen Carlson sort of blew it up and outed it. Because we were

forced -- all women have been repeatedly forced into nondisclosure agreements, which is great for the harasser, he gets to keep harassing. And

a lot of people in 20 million Americans have been forced to sign arbitration agreements.

So our court system is closed to victims of sexual harassment, so we don`t learn. So really it is the truth that journalism and not the law has blown

this open and women, I think, probably because of who our president is, have said enough is enough. It`s time for us to speak up. We need to end

this. We can`t work --

BANFIELD: Can I ask you as a lawyer? Do you think they`re really safe? I mean they see these reports. They see all these big heads rolling. And then

they maybe get emboldened by it. But there`s no big press that`s going to follow them into the walking mall shop where they feel they`re getting

harassed. And they`ll go into their boss. And what do you think is going to happen to them in this wonderful new climate?

SMITH: Well, hopefully some organizations are getting the message that --

BANFIELD: Baloney.

SMITH: -- women are not --

SMITH: I think we`re at a -- I`m getting calls from women --

BANFIELD: I hope so.

SMITH: -- in every industry high and low. But I think that you raised an important point about your experiences with Matt Lauer, because it`s about

power. Sexual harassment is about power. And it seems like the women that were targeted were the women who didn`t have power.

BANFIELD: I button hole this whole thing or button up this whole thing by saying that the attorney for the accuser has made it clear that this woman

brought the concern to management, did not bring a lawsuit. Let`s all be real clear as we go to the office tomorrow and talk this through.

STELTER: Not for a monetary settlement.

BANFIELD: There you go. "Over the course of several hours, my client detailed egregious acts of sexual harassment and misconduct by Mr. Lauer.

In fewer than 35 hours, NBC investigated and removed Mr. Lauer."

He goes on to say, "I am awed by the courage my client showed to be the first to raise a complaint and to do so without making any demands other

than asking the company do the right thing." I think that is so important in all of this. Because I know a lot of people will be saying this whole

movement is jumping the shark.

All these women are looking for something. They`re looking for something because they know they can get something. All of these settlements.

Apparently that woman just wanted her story to be told.

I`m going to just hold for a moment. But, you know what? I still want to hear more. I don`t think we`re done. Right after this break, we`re going to

continue this story. Areva Martin is going to join the conversation too.

[20:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATT LAUER, JOURNALIST: You were probably the last guy in the world that they wanted to fire because you were the guy that the ratings and the

revenues were built on. You carried that network on your shoulders for a lot of years.

So doesn`t it seem safe to assume that the people at Fox News were given a piece of information or given some evidence that simply made it impossible

for you to stay on at Fox News. But you don`t let your number one guy go unless you have information that you think makes him --

BILL O`REILLY, JOURNALIST, That`s not true.

LAUER: Think about those five women and what they did. They came forward and filed complaints against the biggest star at the network they worked

at. Think of how intimidating that must have been, how nerve-racking that must have been. Doesn`t that tell you how strongly they felt about the way

they were treated by you?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: Very interesting, to say the least. Now that we are just over two months since that interview. That was September 19th of this year, that

interview with Bill O`Reilly. And could supplant one name for the other after today`s bombshell report that Matt Lauer is out of a job at NBC amid

allegations of sexual misconduct.

Back with me to talk about the seismic that not only shift in TV but the effect on this movement, CNN`s senior media correspondent and host of

"Reliable Sources" Brian Stelter, CNN special correspondent Jamie Gangel who spent 30 years plus at NBC News, Attorney Nancy Erika Smith who won

Gretchen Carlson`s $20 million settlement with Fox News, and victims rights attorney Areva Martin.

Back to the reporting for a minute, Brian, If I can, because like I said it is coming out fairly quickly. The New York Times dropping this information

that the two new accusers who come out today, they`re actually giving details about what one of them has said happened.

STELTER: That`s right. NBV has confirmed it did receive two new complaints today. It`s not sharing the details.

[20:45:00] But according to the Times which was able to speak with one of these new accusers, this woman said she worked at NBC in the late 1990s,

met Lauer, worked with Lauer on the "Today" show, and then in 2001, he asked her to come to his office. He closed the door. He had a button in his

office to lock the door in his office.

He says he asked her to undress. According to this account in The New York Times, the woman says Lauer had sex with her. At one point, she passed out.

She woke up. According to The New York Times, she woke up on the floor of his office. And Lauer had his assistant take her to a nurse. That`s the

allegation described by this anonymous woman to The New York Times.

She said she did not report the episode to NBC at the time because she believed she should have done more to stop Lauer from having sex with her

and then she left the network a year later.

BANFIELD: And she told her husband about it at the time, she says.

STELTER: That`s right. That is part of the corroboration here. She told her husband what happened. Now after that alleged incident in Lauer`s office,

she says Lauer did not talk to her about it again, did not hit on her again.

But it`s a very disturbing allegation that Lauer brought her to the office, had sex with her, and that she had to go see a nurse afterwards because she

passed out.

BANFIELD: And you have reporting that Matt accepted this decision by Andy Lack, his boss, by NBC News. And that he expressed remorse.

STELTER: That`s right. That`s all we`ve heard from him because he has not issued a statement today. No confirmation, no denial. Just a few moments

ago, I texted his PR person, still no official comment from him. But he did apparently say to Andy Lack that he was remorseful. He knew this is going

to hurt the "Today" show and hurt NBC and he felt sorry about that.

I do wonder if in the coming days he will issue a statement. So many men accused of various wrongdoings have issued a statement. Many of them have

not hit the mark. Remember Kevin Spacey, remember Harvey Weinstein, remember all these men. Louis C.K. put out a long statement. We`ve seen a

lot of men try to address allegations in various ways. We will see if Lauer does it.

BANFIELD: I actually want to bring in Areva Martin on that. As a victims` rights attorney, Areva, you`re the perfect person to ask. Because it was

not a suspension prior to an investigation and then a firing. We`ve seen that happen.

Sometimes not even the suspension prior to an investigation and then a firing. Is this a sea change that you see is going to be the norm? Is this

an outlying reaction, what do you see this as?

AREVA MARTIN, VICTIMS RIGHTS ATTORNEY: Ashleigh, I think it`s hard to say whether this is going to become the norm. I think what we do know is the

fact that NBC terminated Matt Lauer meant that these allegations were sever, plenty that these allegations were severe, that they were

substantial allegations, and that they were corroborated.

There were many things in terms of disciplinary actions that they could have done short of terminating him, but apparently whatever that three-hour

interview contained with respect to that woman who came forward and was in the office with NBC Monday night, she must have had some pretty serious

allegations.

And there was evidence that these allegations were true because termination was the ultimate disciplinary action. And let`s face it, Matt Lauer has a

big contract with NBC. So, if they fired him and they made a misstep, he could be suing them for wrongful termination.

So, I`m sure all the lawyers from the top to the bottom at NBC were involved in this decision and they decided that legally this was the best

decision to make as well as from a reputation and brand standpoint.

BANFIELD: Well, I`ll tell you what, the biggest sea change will be if we see some of these women who lost their jobs rehired, right, Nancy? I think

you said Gretchen Carlson would make a great anchor at "CBS This Morning." And if they get promotions. Let`s just watch to see what happens with

accusers.

Thank you to all of you. This is not an easy topic if you`re reporting on people that you know and love. So I thank you. And great job today.

Excellent job. Appreciate it.

Coming up, the surprising arrest in the Tampa serial killer shootings. The suspect is reportedly a soft-spoken college graduate basketball player with

no criminal record actually described as a wallflower.

[20:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: People of Tampa, Florida have been terrified about a suspected serial killer taking lives at random on the streets there. Four people shot

dead in matter of weeks. But tonight we may know who did it.

Twenty-four-year-old Howell Donaldson III, known as "Trey" to his friends, was arrested after showing up at work with a loaded handgun, the very same

gun police say he used in all the murders.

In his car they say they found clothing with possible bloodstains. Clothing that matches the suspect`s outfit the night of the first shooting.

Donaldson told police he wasn`t familiar with the neighborhood where all of the killings took place. But hours later, he was charged with four counts

of first-degree murder.

(START VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR BOB BUCKHORN, TAMPA, FLORIDA: Tonight is the beginning of when justice will be served, and then the process will occur when this

individual rots in hell.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: Strangely, police say he was friendly when they took him in for questioning. And that his former roommate called him well mannered, a

wallflower, they said, at parties. Tonight the people of Tampa can try to start moving on, but police still have a big question that remains. No

longer who they say killed all these people, but why anyone would do such a thing.

Tonight also, the manhunt continues for the man who brutally attacked a woman working at a gas station.

[20:55:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: Surveillance cameras at a gas station in Kansas City, Missouri captured a brutal attack this week that reportedly put a woman into

surgery. And now police need your help to hunt down the guy who did it.

In the video, you can see the woman try to push his face away, but he physically drags her by the hair out of the store yanking her head,

throwing her to the ground outside on to the concrete as another woman appears. And he just starts wailing on her, punching her in the face

repeatedly, kicking her.

Finally after the assault -- and it was a brutal one -- he just drives off and leaves her there. According to local reports, he broke her nose, he

broke her jaw. Reports also say that he`d been harassing her multiple times over the five years that she`d been working there.

Take a very good look. If you recognize anything about that man, if you know anything about him, call the Kansas City Police and help to bring that

man to justice.

Thank you so much for watching, everyone. I`m Ashleigh Banfield. Please stay tuned. "Forensic Files" begins right now.

[21:00:00]

END