Garrison Keillor may have won today’s take-expiration prize, but NBC News’ Andrew Lack may run a close second. Earlier today, Lack insisted that NBC had acted against Matt Lauer just as soon as they found out about an alleged assault on a colleague, firing him after a one-day investigation. Variety’s Elizabeth Wagmeister rebutted Lack, claiming that NBC knew full well that her magazine had worked on a Lauer story for two months. It finally dropped this afternoon, and … Lack has a lot of explaining to do.
For instance, who approved the buzzer door lock installed in Lauer’s office?
His office was in a secluded space, and he had a button under his desk that allowed him to lock his door from the inside without getting up. This afforded him the assurance of privacy. It allowed him to welcome female employees and initiate inappropriate contact while knowing nobody could walk in on him, according to two women who were sexually harassed by Lauer.
Seriously? What possible good reason could there have been to install a remote door lock on Lauer’s office, other than an attempt to recreate Rock Hudson’s bachelor pad in Pillow Talk? That would have taken no small amount of effort to install, and must have come to someone’s attention. Oh, and speaking of pillow talk, Lauer once asked a female subordinate to deliver a pillow to his hotel room, according to one source.
If it did, though, it didn’t do any good — and neither did repeated complaints to NBC execs, Variety’s sources insist:
Several women told Variety they complained to executives at the network about Lauer’s behavior, which fell on deaf ears given the lucrative advertising surrounding “Today.” NBC declined to comment. For most of Lauer’s tenure at “Today,” the morning news show was No. 1 in the ratings, and executives were eager to keep him happy.
It wasn’t just the executives that knew, either. Variety’s sources claim at least one of Lauer’s co-hosts knew full well what was happening, a point that might require answers from the women who claimed on air to know nothing about Lauer’s actions:
Lauer’s conduct was not a secret among other employees at “Today,” numerous sources say. At least one of the anchors would gossip about stories she had heard, spreading them among the staff. “Management sucks there,” says a former reporter, who asked not to be identified, speaking about executives who previously worked at the show. “They protected the shit out of Matt Lauer.”
Earlier, I wrote that Wagmeister challenged Lack’s credibility on his statement. This article absolutely shreds it, and with it the credibility of NBC News. Let’s not forget that NBC took a hard pass on running the Ronan Farrow exposé on Harvey Weinstein, an editorial decision that never got an adequate explanation. Well, we have it now; they knew that they had their own secrets, and wanted nothing to do with heightening the scrutiny on major media figures. They had a profound conflict of interest and tried to hide it.
Apart from this, the most remarkable aspect of Variety’s report is the banal parallels to other abusers in media workplaces. A pattern of hotel-room invites to subordinates? Check. Surprise appearances by Mr. Happy? Check. Juvenile gossip about sexual appeal of colleagues and subordinates? Check. Intense “mentoring” of young and inexperienced women? Check. Did someone write a playbook for perversion that somehow permeated the inner circles of media executives?
Speaking of which, we almost missed another scalp from the entertainment industry today. The Hollywood Reporter may have found the most prolific of today’s bunch — at least in terms of known incidents thus far. Warner Brothers has fired one of its more successful TV producers after a number of sexual harassment complaints emerged:
Producers Warner Bros. Television has cut all its ties with Andrew Kreisberg, who had an overall deal with the studio.
The Flash and Supergirl producers Warner Bros. Television has cut all ties with Andrew Kreisberg following sexual harassment claims from multiple women involving the showrunner.
Kreisberg, who exec produced The CW’s DC Comics-inspired dramas Supergirl, The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow and Arrow, was suspended by WBTV weeks ago following multiple allegations of sexual harassment. The studio launched an internal investigation in to the allegations. Kreisberg has now been terminated from all four series as well as CW Seed’s Vixen and has lost his overall deal with the studio. (Sources say Kreisberg was also developing another show with Berlanti, with that now up in the air.)
Just how many complaints did Warner Brothers receive about Kreisberg? Nineteen:
Nineteen men and women, all of whom chose to remain anonymous, came forward to accuse the showrunner of sexual misconduct, including inappropriate touching, which took place over a period of several years. Many are current or former employees of the shows Kreisberg executive produced. Kreisberg allegedly touched people and kissed women without consent and asked for massages from female staff.
Nineteen? Was this another “open secret,” like Lauer, Charlie Rose, John Lasseter, and Harvey Weinstein? How many of them had remote door locks at their desks?
Update: We may have an answer to that last question from a former NBC News executive (via Twitchy):
FYI, as strange as it sounds in print, several execs at NBC News have this auto door close switch under their office desks at 30 Rock. I always found it to be intimidating but not unusual.
— Betsy Fischer Martin (@BFischerMartin) November 29, 2017
A door closer, or a door lock? Martin says it could work either way, and anyone in the office wouldn’t know which:
well – it would totally depend on the switch on your door handle – some are switched to the lock position and others are not. The office "guest" has no idea of the setting when the door closes. #doordna
— Betsy Fischer Martin (@BFischerMartin) November 29, 2017
Read the responses at Twitchy to see just how others reacted to this. After having gotten into a debate over the door lock issue with a couple of Twitter followers, it’s worth adding this, but putting it into context. First, if the object was security, this makes no sense at all. NBC’s offices at 30 Rock are in a secured facility already. No one gets past the first floor without either (a) their own pass, or (b) an appointment that guards confirm before letting you into the elevators. I can attest to that personally, having been in the building twice for my book tour. Note that this arrangement isn’t all that unusual for New York City office buildings either.
Second, if the object is merely privacy, why install a remote door lock or closer? It’s expensive and unnecessary; all you have to do is get up from your chair and either close or lock your door by hand. If (as was suggested) you want to look at X-rated websites, you can handle it yourself without any automation, so to speak. The need for a remote closer/lock strongly suggests a need to keep people from leaving, rather than a need to keep people out.
Martin’s not kidding when she says that would be intimidating, but I think she’s kidding herself by claiming it’s not unusual. It’s strange as hell, especially in an already-secure facility. And it raises questions as to just how much Lauer was apart from the culture, or a part of the culture in NBC’s executive offices.