Another day, another accusation of sexual harassment by a powerful man, and another series of statements that make it seem like it was an open secret. Earlier today, NBC News fired Matt Lauer as host of the “Today Show” for inappropriate behavior toward coworkers. Shortly after the announcement, accounts of how accusations against Lauer were an open secret started to trickle in.
Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb, Lauer’s fellow hosts at NBC, opened the show Wednesday morning by announcing the firing of Lauer. Guthrie struggled with the news, trying to process what had just happened.
NBC fires 'Today' show anchor, Matt Lauer, after allegations of "inappropriate workplace behavior." pic.twitter.com/kSk5BF6Hz8— Stream Your City (@LocalNowTWC) November 29, 2017
Since the news broke on “Today,” more has come out about the accusations. According to the New York Post’s “Page Six,” the immediate reason for Lauer’s firing was an accusation of sexual assault on an NBC staffer during the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
But was the news really a surprise? New York Magazine and Huffington Post journalist Yashar Ali said that people shouldn’t have been surprised in a series of tweets Wednesday morning. Ali tweeted, “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.”
Here’s Ali’s full thread:
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
Matt Lauer put the fear of god into these women. He had relationships with reporters outside NBC that he cultivated just for this purpose. They knew that. https://t.co/47UKT8DuJA— Yashar Ali ?? (@yashar) November 29, 2017
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
The real question is, was it only journalists outside the NBC News organization?
When the news broke this morning, it all seemed too familiar. It was. Flashback to this “Page Six” story from July 2016. According to the story, Lauer was rumored to have had an affair with “Today” colleague Natalie Morales. The affair alleged by “Page Six” was said to have led to Morales jumping over to NBC’s “Access Hollywood.”
This paragraph from the article, read in hindsight, could be telling.
Lauer and Morales strongly deny any inappropriate relationship, but one source told us, “There’s speculation it’s one of the reasons why she’s moving . . . Matt didn’t want to work with her.” Lauer was once one of Morales’ biggest supporters at NBC. But now, “There’s an awkwardness between Matt and Natalie . . . He protected her for a long time and now it seems like something has gone awry,” added an insider.
That reads like a textbook case of sexual harassment. Man in power engages in relationship with a lower-ranking female staffer, promotes career while advances are returned, and then turns when “relationship” ends. If true, that is the same power dynamic that existed between Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky.
“Page Six” said at the time that “Lauer carries a lot of power and decides who stays at ‘Today,’ according to insiders.”
In 2012, Lauer co-host Ann Curry was fired from her position at “Today.” Stories surfaced in 2013 that Lauer may have been the reason for the firing. Sexual harassment was not mentioned at the time, but bullying and “torture” were.
For better or worse, Lauer was synonymous with “Today.” Until it all came crashing down around him on Wednesday morning. Should it really have been a surprise?
Editor's note: This article has been corrected to note that the incident reported by the New York Post as the reason for Lauer's firing occurred during the 2014 Sochi Olympics, not the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
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