NBC Lauer probe: Hey, there's no hostile work environment here!

Whew! One can predict the palpable sense of relief sweeping over NBC News after their own executives determined that NBC News does not have a “hostile work environment.” The Hollywood Reporter details the conclusions of the report from their internal investigation, in which high-ranking NBC News figures asked workers whether they ever reported Matt Lauer’s behavior to, er, high-ranking NBC News figures.

Surprise! They all said no, so … it’s all good:

The investigation, which was led by NBCUniversal general counsel Kim Harris, focused on Lauer’s behavior and complaints from four women, who came forward late last year. It included interviews with close to 70 current and former employees including former executives Steve Capus, who was president of NBC News when Ann Curry was ousted from Today in 2012, Jim Bell, who was Today’s executive producer during the same period, and Pat Fili-Krushel, who ran the news division prior to Lack.

The women who accused Lauer, the report stated, “confirmed that they did not tell their direct manager or anyone else in a position of authority about their sexual encounters with Lauer. Current and former members of NBC News and Today Show leadership, as well as News HR, stated that they had never received a complaint about inappropriate workplace behavior by Lauer, and we did not find any contrary evidence.

“We were also unable to establish that any of those interviewed, including NBC News and Today Show leadership, News HR and others in positions of authority in the News Division, knew that Lauer had engaged in sexual activity with other employees,” the report continued. “Every such individual credibly responded that they had no such knowledge. Most witnesses interviewed stated that they had heard or read rumors about Lauer’s personal life, including tabloid stories about the troubled state of his marriage and the possibility of extramarital affairs, but those witnesses believed, with limited exceptions, that the rumored extramarital affairs were with women outside of the Company.”

In other words, NBC executives all denied any knowledge of Lauer’s actions during interviews with other NBC investigators. Perhaps it’s true, but let’s pose a thought experiment. Suppose a company on which NBC reported misconduct on the part of top executives claimed that no one else in management knew about it. Despite this theoretical executive having been accused by multiple people, Brand X concluded that no one knew about the misconduct merely because they had their HR department and general counsel ask the executives whether they had knowledge of it.  Would NBC drop the story on that basis?

Fox News — which has no small amount of credibility issues reporting on this topic, of course — contrasted NBC’s internal probe to the approach CBS has taken with its Charlie Rose scandal:

CBS has enlisted Proskauer Rose LLP to look into accusations made against former anchor Charlie Rose. (Three former CBS employees filed a lawsuit Friday against the news anchor and the network claiming harassment and retaliation.) The firm, which recently investigated misconduct claims at New York Public Radio, is among the most powerful law firms in the nation and has long championed the advancement of women.

In stark contrast with CBS, the Peacock Network is relying on in-house general counsel Kim Harris to oversee an investigation into who knew about disgraced “Today” host Matt Lauer’s sexual misconduct and whether NBC executives looked the other way. Observers worry that this investigation will lack the apolitical nature of those done by outside law firms — many of which lead to the dismissal of top executives at companies with troubled sex harassment cultures. Some NBC insiders are skeptical that an investigation is even taking place.

They’re not the only ones skeptical about that. This looks less like a real probe and more like a circle-the-wagons-and-cover-our-peacock-tailfeathers exercise. That seems especially true after Ann Curry explicitly and publicly told the Washington Post two weeks ago that she went to management over Lauer’s behavior:

During her last year on the “Today” show, in 2012, Lauer’s co-host Ann Curry said she approached two members of NBC’s management team after an NBC female staffer told her she was “sexually harassed physically” by Lauer. “A woman approached me and asked me tearfully if I could help her,” Curry recalled recently, in her first public comments about the episode. “She was afraid of losing her job. . . . I believed her.”

The woman, she said, implored Curry not to reveal her name to anyone, and she obliged. But Curry specifically named Lauer as a person of concern. “I told management they had a problem and they needed to keep an eye on him and how he deals with women,” she said.

The NBC staffer confirmed to The Washington Post that she went to Curry with her complaint. She spoke on the condition of anonymity because she fears retaliation.

And about there being no hostile work environment at NBC, well …

Curry, who in an interview said there was “pervasive verbal sexual harassment at NBC,” worked on “Today” for 15 years, most of that time as a news reader, and co-anchored alongside Lauer in 2011 and 2012.

This “investigation” is a joke, and THR notes that it’s not even selling internally:

Multiple staffers who spoke to THR said they felt that inquiry should have been outsourced, if only because the optics of an internal inquiry are less than favorable. Others disagree: “I don’t feel like the investigation is not being taken seriously because it’s being run by NBC,” said one staffer. “Hiring a third party to investigate is often done for affect.”

Not if the point is not to find anything. That brings up another question: what will NBC’s internal investigation conclude about Tom Brokaw? The suspense is killing us.