Give NBC some credit for its own scoop. Last week, CBS had to fire its morning anchor over sexual harassment charges after a Washington Post investigation turned up a number of women who detailed incidents of sexual harassment involving Charlie Rose. This morning, NBC broke the story on its own morning anchor, firing Matt Lauer after an internal investigation over a complaint reached the desk of NBC News chairman Andrew Lack. While the one complaint was only raised two days ago, the official announcement hints that more allegations are likely to arise:
Matt Lauer, the anchor of “Today” for two decades, was fired by NBC News after a detailed complaint about inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace.
“Today” co-anchors Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb announced Lauer’s firing Wednesday, telling viewers at the top of the show that they were processing his departure but didn’t yet know all of the details.
In a memo to employees sent Wednesday morning, NBC News Chairman Andrew Lack said the complaint, which was made by a colleague of Lauer’s, prompted a serious review and represented a “clear violation of our company’s standards.”
Lack said it was the first complaint lodged against Lauer, 59, for his behavior since he took over as anchor of the show in 1997, but there was “reason to believe” it may not have been an isolated incident.
Guthrie and Kotb told Today‘s audience that they were taken by surprise by the announcement, but support it even though they both express love for Lauer. “We are devastated,” Guthrie said, “and we are still processing all of this.” Nevertheless, both women say they fully support NBC’s decision:
Matt Lauer has been terminated from NBC News. On Monday night, we received a detailed complaint from a colleague about inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace by Matt Lauer. As a result, we’ve decided to terminate his employment. pic.twitter.com/1A3UAZpvPb
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) November 29, 2017
If NBC managed to hang onto its own scoop, it might have just been a question of timing. After the announcement, HuffPost reporter Yashar Ali remarked that he and other reporters began hearing about Lauer before they started working on a bigger story:
I, and other reporters , have been aware of several women who have come forward privately in the past few months …even before Weinstein. They weren’t willing to go public though…they were terrified of Matt. https://t.co/jR3VV1AWGt
— Yashar Ali 🐘 (@yashar) November 29, 2017
If that was the case, Lauer’s sudden firing removes that obstacle. He has no more power over careers inside or outside of NBC, which means that the floodgates should open up shortly. That may produce some uncomfortable moments at NBC, including for Guthrie and Kotb, who worked with Lauer for years without apparently ever knowing of any issues. Just as with CBS This Morning, the women may not only have to pick up the pieces but also ask themselves how they missed the signs.
With its two broadcast competitors reeling, ABC’s Good Morning America focused on what Lauer’s firing means by getting New York Times media analyst Jim Rutenberg on the phone. Rutenberg corroborates Ali’s comment, saying that reporters had been chasing down rumors about Lauer, as does George Stephanopoulos, and assumes that Lack knew that NBC was operating on borrowed time. :
NYT media columnist @jimrutenberg on Lauer firing: "The move by Andy Lack was swift. Let there be no doubt: This is seismic moment in the culture, and in the media." https://t.co/Gf7S2sJojQ pic.twitter.com/BiJvtU9NfX
— ABC News (@ABC) November 29, 2017
Rutenberg says that an ongoing effort to report on Lauer at the NYT will “now move a little bit faster than it already has been.” No doubt, and the NYT will hardly be alone in expediting those reports.
Finally, Donald Trump weighed in on the story by suggesting that all of the executives at NBC and Comcast should get fired:
Wow, Matt Lauer was just fired from NBC for “inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace.” But when will the top executives at NBC & Comcast be fired for putting out so much Fake News. Check out Andy Lack’s past!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 29, 2017
Er …. what exactly is the upside in this? Does Trump hope to shift the focus away from allegations about Lauer and back onto the allegations that emerged against him during the campaign? These news organizations would like nothing better than for that to happen, believe me. It’d be yuuuuuge to duck the reckoning that’s coming in media circles with some first-class whataboutism aimed at the White House. Perhaps someone should explain the political axiom to Trump that instructs people to refrain from commenting when an opponent is busy shooting himself in the foot. It seems that Trump wants every story to be about him, even when he should be hoping that some stories never circle back to him at all.
Addendum: The sociological explanation of the day comes from my pal and former radio partner Mitch Berg. “It appears the Sexual Revolution has led to the Sexual Cultural Revolution.”
Update: Page Six reports that the complaint that got Lauer fired went beyond harassment, and it dates back to the previous Olympics:
A source told Page Six, “An NBC staffer come forward with a claim that Matt sexually assaulted her at the Olympics. There have been rumors about Matt having affairs with subordinates at NBC for years, but those were believed to be consensual. This incident in Rio was not.”
Another source tells us that the decision to fire Lauer was made late Tuesday night by NBC News chairman Andy Lack.
That would explain the quick action. Could this have been one of the stories being pursued by other news organizations?
Update: Ali later added that Lauer was “one of the worst” when it came to intimidating his victims:
Lauer is among the worst I've heard about. Not in terms of the kind of misconduct but the way in which he manipulated these women into silence. It's evil, frightening stuff. https://t.co/5FiFmajUw0
— Yashar Ali 🐘 (@yashar) November 29, 2017
Worse than Weinstein? Probably not, but then again, that’s a high bar to clear.