American culture has become overcome with a wave of sexual assault allegations. What started with the fall of Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein has branched out into allegations against celebrities, politicians and even news anchors. Powerful members of society such as Congressman John Conyers are facing massive backlashes while others such as Charlie Rose have fallen from the top.
But many seemed to be hit especially hard this week when NBC announced that Matt Lauer, long-time host of the Today Show, had been fired. The reason for the firing, like in many other cases in recent months, was sexual misconduct.
As the official story goes according to NBC, they received allegations from people who have worked with the Today Show host. After some internal investigation, they concluded it was time to terminate his employment. While losing Lauer will undoubtedly hurt the network in the ratings, it was widely seen as a selfless move to release him anyway.
But is everything as it seems?
Later that day, Variety dropped a bombshell news story detailing allegations against Lauer. There were multiple instances of sexual misconduct that paint a different picture of the man who the American public watched every morning for years.
In one instance, Lauer gave a colleague a sex toy. That gift came with a note detailing how he wanted to use it on her. According to the news report, it horrified the colleague.
There was another instance when he called a different female into his office. Lauer then dropped his pants and showed his penis to her. Visibly shaken, she didn’t do anything. The female employee was later reprimanded for not engaging in sexual acts with him.
The Variety report also discussed how he would often quiz people about who they slept with and who he wanted to sleep with. Given all of this behavior was going on, it was quite clear that numerous people within the network knew what was going on with Lauer. He wasn’t the kind and funny guy people saw on television in the morning. So why didn’t anyone say anything?
Matt Lauer had been a ratings hit and morning show staple for decades. Losing business like that is a huge price to pay for doing the right thing, and it is clear that NBC didn’t want to kill the golden goose.
Variety states that its report was the result of a two-month investigation. During this process, they interviewed numerous current and former employees of the network. Accounts of sexual misconduct were repeatedly confirmed as a picture of a very different Lauer was painted by the women.
So did NBC know? The big story here is how Matt Lauer has been a sexual predator for years, engaging repeated inappropriate behavior and abusing his position as a powerful figure. But is there a bigger story in how NBC covered it up and looked the other way? Given this is a possibility, people should hold their praise of the network until the facts are all uncovered.
Matt Lauer may not be the only one bearing shame for all of this behavior continuing.