In just the past two months, 34 high-profile men in our country have been accused of sexual misconduct. Matt Lauer, former NBC News correspondent and host of “Today,” is the most recent addition to this jarring list.
Andrew Lack, president of NBC News, wrote a memo to his staff on Nov 29. “On Monday night, we received a detailed complaint from a colleague about inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace by Matt Lauer,” Lack said, according to CNBC. The complaint “represented, after serious review, a clear violation of our company’s standards.”
As a result of this complaint, NBC News fired Lauer on Nov. 29. The sudden termination of such an adored television icon was alarming to many, but several individuals are upset for the wrong reasons.
Following the announcement, there was an outpour of unfounded responses in support for Lauer. This reaction is absolutely unacceptable. NBC should have been commended for taking such drastic actions to hold a predator accountable and protect their employees.
Unfortunately, that was not the case as Savannah Guthrie, Lauer’s co-host on the “Today” show, made an announcement as she held back tears.
“We are devastated,” Guthrie said at the top of “Today” the morning of Nov. 29. “I am heartbroken for Matt. He is my dear, dear friend and my partner and he has been loved by many, many people here.”
Hoda Kotb, the emergency replacement as Guthrie’s co-host, added that she “loved him as a friend and as a colleague.”
President Donald Trump did not hesitate to chime in on Twitter, writing, “Wow, Matt Lauer was just fired from NBC for ‘inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace.’ But when will the top executives at NBC & Comcast be fired for putting out so much Fake News.”
The focus of many responses to Lauer’s abrupt firing appear to be on the sadness of his termination. While there is validity in the despair that comes with a respected colleague being fired, the focus of this action should be elsewhere.
Sexual misconduct in the workplace is a serious issue, which has become increasingly clear as more and more allegations arise from all different professions. Individuals who partake in such offensive and criminal actions must be held accountable. NBC is sending an important message that sexual misconduct must not be tolerated, on any level.
It is disconcerting that this issue has taken a turn away from this and individuals are more concerned with Lauer, someone who brought this termination upon himself. In doing so, individuals are wrongly sympathizing with a perpetrator of sexual misconduct and harassment.
This is not uncommon, however, and this reaction was exhibited by DKNY fashion designer Donna Karan after the release of Harvey Weinstein’s sexual harassment accusations, when she said, “I think we have to look at ourselves … how do we display ourselves? How do we present ourselves as women? What are we asking? Are we asking for it by presenting all the sensuality and all the sexuality?” according to Mashable.
Furthermore, following the accusations of comedian Louis C.K., colleague Gregg Rogell said as part of a stand-up routine, “In Louis’ defense, he’s practicing safe sex, so leave him alone,” as reported by Vulture.
Not only is this removing blame from Weinstein and Lauer unwarranted, but placing it on victims is unacceptable. These statements and reactions to sexual misconduct are toxic and exhibit victim blaming and glorification of the perpetrator.
The reaction to Lauer’s firing indicates a need for change when it comes to the public’s perception of these issues. It is essential that individuals, especially those in the public eye, do not act in a way that sympathizes with horrid actions.
Although it is distressing that Lauer—a highly acclaimed man— was exposed as a predator, his termination displays a progressive message.
The message from this event should be positive—if such an admired news figure was fired despite his popularity, we are advancing in the right direction of treating perpetrators the way they deserve.