An internal investigation at NBC apparently shows that leadership on both the “Today” show and NBC News had no idea that their star anchor, Matt Lauer, had routinely engaged in alleged sexual misconduct for years.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the results of NBC’s internal investigation shows that neither “Today” nor human resources “received complaints” about Lauer’s “workplace behavior prior to November 27, 2017,” when the #MeToo movement reached a fever-pitch.
Led by NBCUniversal general counsel Kim Harris, the investigation probed complaints about Lauer’s behavior from the four women who came forward with allegations of sexual misconduct against him last year.
“It included interviews with close to 70 current and former employees, including former executives Steve Capus, who was president of NBC News when Ann Curry was ousted from Today in 2012,” reports THR. “Jim Bell, who was Today‘s executive producer during the same period; and Pat Fili-Krushel, who ran the news division prior to current chairman Andy Lack.”
According to the report, the women who accused Lauer “confirmed that they did not tell their direct manager or anyone else in a position of authority about their sexual encounters with Lauer.” Their statements were corroborated by members of NBC News and “Today” leadership.
While some members of leadership and staff admit to hearing rumors that Lauer had extramarital affairs, they never saw such rumors materialize in a formal complaint. From the report:
We were also unable to establish that any of those interviewed, including NBC News and Today Show leadership, News HR and others in positions of authority in the News Division, knew that Lauer had engaged in sexual activity with other employees. Every such individual credibly responded that they had no such knowledge. Most witnesses interviewed stated that they had heard or read rumors about Lauer’s personal life, including tabloid stories about the troubled state of his marriage and the possibility of extramarital affairs, but those witnesses believed, with limited exceptions, that the rumored extramarital affairs were with women outside of the Company.
A number of individuals interviewed said that Lauer could be flirtatious, would frequently make jokes, some with sexual overtones, and would openly engage in sexually-oriented banter in the workplace. Several women also credibly described to the investigation team being the subject of what they believed was a sexual overture from Lauer in which he complimented them on their appearance in sexually suggestive ways. According to these women, Lauer did not pursue them further when they deflected or ignored the overture, and they did not experience any retaliation. All these women stated that they did not report this behavior to anyone in a position of authority.
One important myth in the Lauer story that the investigation debunked was the so-called “lock button” in his office, a sensational story during the Lauer mania alleging that the news anchor actually had a button that could lock victims into his office from the inside. According to the report, the door buttons were common items for NBC executives that made it easier for them to close their doors without leaving their desk, but never locked it from the inside.
“The button is a commonly available feature in executive offices in multiple NBCUniversal facilities to provide an efficient way to close the door without getting up from the desk,” says the report. “The button releases a magnet that holds the door open. It does not lock the door from the inside.”
The report concludes that “the investigation team does not believe that there is a widespread or systemic pattern of behavior that violates Company policy or a culture of harassment in the News Division.”
In a note to employees on Wednesday, NBC chairman Andrew Lack said that the company is committed to creating a better future where employees feel they can voice complaints.
“Like many of you, I am immensely proud of NBC News, its history, and the work we do,” he said. “But — stepping back from the investigation — that history also includes a time when people were not comfortable coming forward to voice complaints about repugnant behavior. That is not acceptable. We cannot change the past. What we can do is learn from it, and try to make it right. We have already begun to turn the page to establish a safer and more respectful environment. That requires strong, specific steps in a sustained manner to transform the culture.”