AceShowbiz - It's been more than a month since %cMatt Lauer% was fired from "Today" over sexual misconduct allegations. %cKatie Couric%, his former longtime colleague, is now breaking her silence about Lauer's shocking dismissal after he was accused of "inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace."
"The whole thing has been very painful for me," Couric reveals to PEOPLE. "The accounts I've read and heard have been disturbing, distressing and disorienting and it's completely unacceptable that any woman at the 'Today' show experienced this kind of treatment."
"I had no idea this was going on during my tenure or after I left," the 61-year-old goes on saying. "I think I speak for many of my former colleagues when I say this was not the Matt we knew."
She continues saying that the 59-year-old former "Today" co-host "was a kind and generous colleague who treated me with respect." She adds, "In fact, a joke I once made on late-night television was just that, because it was completely contrary to our brother-sister relationship. It's still very upsetting. I really admire the way Savannah [%cSavannah Guthrie%] and Hoda [%cHoda Kotb%] and the entire 'Today' show staff have handled a very difficult situation."
The aforementioned late-night television is "Watch What Happens Live with %cAndy Cohen%", on which Couric said during her appearance in a 2012 episode that Lauer "pinches me on the ass a lot."
Talking to Entertainment Tonight, Couric explained the controversial remarks. "I think that's very illustrative of the current media landscape, that something can be plucked, and then taken out of context," she says. "It's a silly joke on a late night show that was just that, a silly joke, and people, I think, read into everything these days, and I think it just goes with the territory. But it was nice for me to be able to say that that was a joke."
"I wanted to say that earlier, but then I thought it would open up a can of worms, and I really needed time to process all of this, like I think a lot of people do when a situation like this happens," she opens up.