‘Today’ anchor Matt Lauer, who replaced Bryant Gumbel in 1997, is the second high-profile journalist to be fired over sexual misconduct allegations in two weeks.
Matt Lauer, who spent 20 years as co-anchor of NBC’s Today, has become the latest prominent journalist to be terminated after complaints came forward alleging sexual misconduct. Lauer’s firing came a week after CBS News fired veteran newsman Charlie Rose, co-anchor of CBS This Morning and contributor for 60 Minutes.
Today’s Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb sat at the anchor desk to break the news about their colleague, news they say they only learned minutes before the start of the program. Other than the lack of notice, the scene was eerily similar to that episode of CBS This Morning a week earlier, in which Gayle King and Norah O’Donnell reported on their colleague’s sudden disappearance from his place at the table.
Lauer issued a statement in which he said he was “truly sorry.” “Some of what is being said about me is untrue or mischaracterized, but there is enough truth in these stories to make me feel embarrassed and ashamed,” Lauer said in the statement.
In both cases, official statements from their respective networks insisted they were committed to making the workplace a safe place for everyone.
CBS News President David Rhodes said this of Rose’s termination:
“Despite Charlie’s important journalistic contribution to our news division, there is absolutely nothing more important, in this or any organization, than ensuring a safe, professional workplace — a supportive environment where people feel they can do their best work. We need to be such a place.”
NBC News Chairman Andrew Lack said this of Lauer’s termination:
“Our highest priority is to create a workplace environment where everyone feels safe and protected, and to ensure that any actions that run counter to our core values are met with consequences, no matter who the offender.”
It’s probably not a stretch of the imagination to believe that there will be more accusations to come. In fact, hours after the world learned of Lauer’s firing, humorist and radio host Garrison Keillor announced he’d been fired by Minnesota Public Radio over allegations of “inappropriate behavior.”
For journalists, there’s a different standard: how can a journalist who stands accused of “inappropriate behavior” maintain credibility in reporting instances in which others are accused of similar indiscretions?
Unfortunately, elected officials accused of “inappropriate behavior” are the ones who seem to get the biggest pass.
How could these incidents have happened?
It’s difficult to imagine the kinds of behaviors being alleged — and it’s worth noting that we still don’t know for sure which allegations are completely accurate — being considered acceptable.
Then I heard a podcast called Bad Christian. During a chat, one of the hosts made an interesting point: People who actually commit inappropriate behavior do so after calculating exactly what they think they can really get away with.
It’s an interesting idea, but I’d never thought about it that way.
As the tide has turned against such behavior, thanks to more women having the courage to come forward, what was once considered “being one of the boys” in the workplace — or any other equally ridiculous idea — no longer is. So the men who calculated what they could get away with now are finding out their calculations were off.
Only, the calculations weren’t entirely off.
At least, they weren’t wrong at the time. In some cases, accusers are coming forward after decades, not days or weeks.
A lot of people, especially those of white privilege, think that it’s entirely unfair to go after people who did something wrong years ago by today’s standards.
But what if it was something other than sexual misconduct? Let’s substitute a different kind of offense. Let’s suppose that a man enters a bank to rob it, but he only gets away with $25. Would it be right for police, once notified of the crime, to ignore it because, well, “it wasn’t a big deal”?
And wouldn’t authorities have every reason to want to bring to justice someone who robbed a bank, whether they got away with $25 or $25,000?
Wrongdoing, after all, is wrongdoing, right?
But consider this: What if the bank robbery wasn’t initially reported because the people who were robbed were, at the time, too afraid to report it?
Does that make the robbery any less real? Does it make the robber any less deserving of punishment?
Yes, I realize that bank robbery and sexual misconduct aren’t the same thing, but the questions are worth contemplating.
Maybe the issue is that once people — particularly men — reach a certain level of power, they think the rules that are supposed to apply to everyone no longer apply to them.
This revolution we’re seeing play out in the headlines every day isn’t likely to end any time soon.
It’s worth noting that we live in a country in which one is supposed to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. But it’s also important to remember that the kind of “proof” required to convince the most ardent supporters of the accused isn’t likely to exist: those who are actually guilty of such indiscretions often use their very positions of power to make sure there’s no way to prove such an allegation.
It’s easy for fans of such high-profile folks — journalists, politicians, sports figures, or any other type of admired person — to immediately discount any such allegation, just as it’s easy for people who have found themselves the victim of similar incidents to automatically accept as gospel any such claims.
As with all things, it’s a matter of perspective. Our own perspective is the one that decides how we’ll instinctively react.
“…we need to listen to the accusers and to recognize that often they aren’t just fighting with the men who have violated them—they are fighting with the image we have of those men and do not want to part with.”
At some point, we have to be willing to at least consider the other side of the coin. Who we side with in such cases, whether it’s the accused or the accuser, may not necessarily be the one who’s telling the whole truth.
Ultimately, we’ll probably never know how much truth and how much falsehood is involved in such allegations. But more and more people are now listening and taking notice.
Maybe that will at least prevent future incidents from continuing to occur.
Patrick is a Christian with more than 26 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.