Matt Lauer is out at NBC. And that’s not the end of the story.
Lauer’s abrupt firing from NBC raised a number of serious questions about the network’s handling of the controversial anchor – particularly since serious allegations about Lauer have apparently been floating around for years. Variety and The New York Times have both been working on stories about such allegations. On Wednesday morning, The New York Post ran with the first such allegation:
Matt Lauer allegedly sexually assaulted a female NBC staffer during the Rio Olympics, sources told Page Six. The staffer, who has not been named and wishes to remain anonymous, complained to NBC News bosses yesterday, prompting them to move fast and fire him.
According to the Post, Lauer had numerous affairs with subordinates at the network, but they were said to be consensual. The Rio situation was not. More details will be forthcoming soon.
Lauer’s firing does demonstrate, however, that there is a vast gap between media treatment of sexual assault and harassment, and political treatment of sexual assault and harassment. In the past few months, we’ve seen the following major media figures thrown into the ashbin of history: Harvey Weinstein, Bill O’Reilly, Roger Ailes, Kevin Spacey, Charlie Rose, Michael Oreskas, Mark Halperin, and Leon Wieseltier, among many others; we’ve seen figures including Glenn Thrush, Louis CK, Brett Ratner and John Lasseter go into absence.
In politics, Republican Roy Moore is still set to win his Senate race; Al Franken (D-MN) is set to keep his Senate seat; and nobody’s actually forcing Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) out.
What’s the difference? In the media, we can measure popularity by ratings. Nobody wants to watch alleged sexual abusers grin at them over their morning coffee. In politics, we can only measure popularity by elections, and elections aren’t purely about popularity – President Trump won the White House despite serious sexual harassment and assault allegations, and with an approval rating well below 40 percent. Other issues cloud our voting decisions.
Still, there is something to be said for the notion that if we had the same standards for our politicians we apparently do for our media, we’d all be better off. It’s not as though there aren’t decent people who hold the same priorities as the politicians we support. It’s just that we don’t make their decency a priority in primaries. Perhaps we should learn to do so. Otherwise, all the monsters will be in Congress, even as the media – that supposed cesspool of sexual depravity – cleanses itself.