Morning news shows like ABC’s Good Morning, America and NBC’s Today Show isn’t really my thing because they’re a bit too fluffy for me. I alternate between CNN’s New Day and MSNBC’s Morning Joe, depending on which one is annoying me less. Even though I don’t watch the Today Show and never had strong opinions pro or con about Matt Lauer, I still felt kinda bad about drawing this cartoon because I kinda sorta have friends at MSNBC (I’m far from being any sort of insider). Then, I read the details of the accusations against Lauer. I don’t feel bad about it anymore.
Matt Lauer is the latest casualty in the fast-moving national reckoning of sexual harassment in the workplace. He has been a fixture of the network’s most profitable franchise for over 20 years. On Monday, an NBC staffer met with executives and told them Lauer had done bad things. By Tuesday morning, Lauer was out.
I was watching Morning Joe when it was announced. I saw the clips of Lauer’s co-hosts from Today, and you could tell they were reporting the news before they had time to compress and absorb the information. But, after reading some details of Lauer’s behaviors, are they really that shocked?
Fox News caught a lot of grief for turning a blind eye and enabling, if not actually creating an environment for sexual harassment. They ignored the behavior of chairman Roger Ailes and their biggest star, Bill O’Reilly, even renewing their contracts after settling lawsuits. The details of Lauer’s behavior make it hard to believe that NBC executives were totally ignorant of what was going on.
NBC News chairman Andrew Lack wrote in a memo to staffers, “while it is the first complaint about his behavior in the over 20 years he’s been at NBC News, we were also presented with reason to believe this may not have been an isolated incident.”
It wasn’t an isolated incident, and apparently, it wasn’t the first complaint. Later in the day, NBC received two more complaints and The New York Times spoke with one of the accusers. She explained in detail how Lauer intimidated her to have sex with him in his office, from which she even passed out (probably not because it was so good). She claims Lauer started harassing her during a trip to cover the Sochi Olympics, and after the incident in his office, he never bothered her again.
According to Variety, There were other details of Lauer’s sexist behavior around the office. He gave one female co-worker a sex toy as a gift along with a note about how he wanted to use it on her. He exposed his genitals to another co-worker and then reprimanded her for not engaging in a sexual act.
Last year, he was heavily criticized after a debate in which he appeared to go easy on Donald Trump while asking aggressive questions of Hillary Clinton.
One interesting detail from all of this is when Lauer interviewed Bill O’Reilly after he was fired from Fox News, and asked him if he’d ever sent lewd text messages to colleagues. Lauer said to O’Reilly, “they came forward and filed complaints against the biggest star they at the network they worked at. Think about how intimidating that must have been. Doesn’t that tell you how strongly they felt about you?”
Lauer must have known this topic well, as he had sent lewd text messages himself. And, when complaints were filed with NBC executives, they were ignored. That is, until Monday.
One of the many public men who is struggling with the aftermath of sexual harassment is Minnesota Senator Al Franken. Fellow Minnesotan, author, and radio host Garrison Keillor came to Franken’s defense in a column published by The Washington Post Tuesday where he argued against demands for the Senator to resign. By Wednesday, word came out that Keillor himself had sexually harassed a woman, and he was fired from Minnesota Public Radio.
We’re still waiting for this new no-tolerance attitude to hit politics. Donald Trump, the guy with accusations soaring into the double digits actually had the gall to tweet about Matt Lauer and NBC.
While famous men are being exposed, lesser-known men have been reflecting on their past behavior (and if they’re not, they should). I am one of them. I received a text yesterday, half-jokingly, from my very first editor asking if there was anything from back in the day he should know about. “Back in the day” was my first five years in the newspaper business and I worked for his newspaper from 1990 to 1995. Being married doesn’t seem to be a factor with a lot of these guys who are harassing women, but that, my shyness, awkwardness, and the fact I was actually a good boy back then prevented me from engaging in sexual harassment. That office was staffed mostly by women, and quite frankly, I would have been afraid of each and every one of them. Anyone who was present during that time can surely vouch for that.
If I was a bad boy in the past, it would have started around 1999. I was newly single, discovered bars and playing live music. I gained confidence and some obnoxiousness. Still, I hope I never went past any lines or disrespected any co-workers. Honestly, the most lewdest thing I ever experienced in newsrooms was language. If you ever worked in a newsroom for a daily newspaper, you better know how to curse and speak in sarcasm.
However, after much reflecting upon my past, I’m still looking back. I will continue to do so. I keep that in mind as I cover these topics. I wonder if Lauer had it in his mind while he was interviewing O’Reilly.
And, no. I don’t feel bad about this cartoon one bit.
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