Liam Payne first explained, “He’s got a tummy bug so he’s not very well. We only found out this morning so we’re really sad, he is as well, that he can’t be here for our album release.”
Lauer decided to press the boys for more information, citing online speculation that drugs might be the real reason for Malik’s no-show.
As the audience booed and the other 1D members -- Harry Styles, Louis Tomlinson and Niall Horan -- uncomfortably shifted in their seats, Payne reiterated, “No, he's just got a stomach bug, he's okay. He's just at home, he needs to rest.”
A representative for One Direction told MailOnline, “Zayn was taken ill after recording the Band Aid single at the weekend and was unfortunately not well enough to fly to the USA yesterday. He will join the band for promotion for the new album as soon as he possibly can.”
Fans showed their concern about Zayn's absence with the hashtag #GetWellSoonZayn.
The group's fourth album was released on Monday, following the success of the record's lead single, “Steal My Girl.”