News that NBC had fired Matt Lauer from the Today Show, a job he’d held for 20 years, after being accused of sexual “misconduct” dominated headlines on Wednesday. Though the network’s chairman Andrew Lack said in a statement NBC’s top priority is to create a safe work environment and to ensure that “any actions that run counter to our core values are met with consequences, no matter who the offender,” multiple journalists revealed that they’d been investigating allegations against Lauer for months and that management at NBC News was aware.
Herb Scribner, writer at Deseret News, tweeted, “Per @brianstelter, and Variety and NYT both working on stories on Matt Lauer before the news broke.”
CNN’s Brian Stelter confirmed Scribner’s assertion, adding, “The Variety story had been in the works for 2 months. And NBC News management knew about both the NYT and Variety investigations.”
Yashar Ali, a freelance reporter who writes for Huffington Post and New York Magazine, added further confirmation. “@RaminSetoodeh of Variety., The New York Times, myself, and others have been working on stories,” he tweeted. “Some top executives of NBC were aware of these stories.”
— Yashar Ali 🐘 (@yashar) November 29, 2017
This undermines Lack’s attempts to paint the allegations against Lauer as new information. In his memo to NBC staff, Lack called the newest accusation, which was reported to the network on Monday and appears to be the trigger for the anchor’s termination, “the first complaint about his behavior in the over 20 years he’s been at NBC News.”
While Lack went on to acknowledge that they’d been presented with evidence that this had likely not been an isolated incident — whether he means by the accuser herself or by information dug up by reporters isn’t clear — the decision to fire Lauer before the publication of at least two exposés they were aware of looks like an attempt to save face for the company’s decision to not act on accusations they were well aware of.
This would not be the first time a network, including NBC itself, turns a blind eye to evidence of a high-profile man being guilty of sexual harassment or assault. NBC was well aware of the existence of the Access Hollywood tape in which Trump admitted to groping women against their will and kept it hidden. Only after learning the it had been leaked to the Washington Post did NBC hastily put together a story to beat the Post to the punch. NBC also recently passed on Ronan Farrow’s exposé of Harvey Weinsten after he’d spent months reporting it for the company; it was ultimately published by the New Yorker.