More Lauer: An Execrable Abuser — and NBC Knew

[Content Note: Rape culture; descriptions of sexual harassment and assault.]

So, it turns out that Variety was working on a months-long investigation of Matt Lauer, so NBC didn't exactly fire him because of a complaint as much as they did to get out ahead of a report that makes it pretty goddamn clear that management — and probably the legal department — knew about Lauer's pattern of sexual harassment and assault for a very long time, but did nothing about it until they got wind of Variety's investigation.

The piece by Ramin Setoodeh and Elizabeth Wagmeister is headlined "Matt Lauer Accused of Sexual Harassment by Multiple Women." As I noted on Twitter, the headline is incorrect, because the story details, among Lauer's many acts of gross misconduct, his exposing himself to female colleagues without their consent. That is not merely "sexual harassment" just because it happened in a workplace. Flashing is criminal.

That's hardly the only problem with the story: There are a number of curious phrases that reveal a fundamental misunderstanding of the most basic principle that abusers aren't all skulking creeps who live under rocks.

"Despite being married, Lauer was fixated on women, especially their bodies and looks," the authors write, as though wives magically fix harmful men. "In front of the camera, for more than two decades, Lauer had positioned himself as America's squeaky-clean dad. But behind the scenes, Lauer was a different person," they tell us, as though "squeaky-clean dad" and "abuser" are inherently incompatible and thus mutually exclusive. They are not.

But between the problematic writing there is informative reporting on Lauer's history of abuse, as disclosed by some of his former female colleagues. Among those revelations is this:
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.
There is no way that Matt Lauer requested that button, that it was approved and installed, without NBC management being aware of it and understanding its purpose.

And then there is this: "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." I'm sure they did.

Especially since that flies in the face of NBC News Chair Andy Lack's contention that the recent complaint which supposedly prompted Lauer's firing was "the first complaint about his behavior in the over twenty years he's been at NBC News."

NBC knew. And they chose to abet Lauer's harassment and assault of his female colleagues. Right up until another news organization decided to expose him.

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