We need to talk about powerful, silent spectators who allowed monsters like Matt Lauer to thrive | OPINION
Until Harvery Wesintein's ugly monster side was exposed a few months back, men like Lauer hid behind the liberal, feminist ally persona and we lapped it up like warm soup.
This week has given us bunch of positive and negative news, but there is one hot topic that takes the cake in making my blood boil. Here we discuss in grave detail what it is, how it happened and who is to blame.
This week's topic is Matt Lauer and his secret identity as a vile sexual predator.
It has been confirmed that the once beloved NBC News correspondent Matt Lauer - who was fired by the network in November - is getting divorced from his wife Annette Roque, mostly because of the shocking number of sexual harassment allegations against him.
In the wake of this, Meredith Vieira, an alleged victim of Lauer's, is said to make a statement during their trial. It is also speculated that Meredith's revelations could totally break Lauer's public persona and even get his estranged wife upwards $100 million in settlement.
I, for one, am definitely happy to learn that Meredith's truth will land Lauer right back into the quicksand of his own making, despite reportedly trying to claw his way out of it recently. It was recently reported that he was even trying to make a comeback and testing waters by coming out of hiding from his Hamptons mansion.
Men like Lauer should not be allowed back into the limelight, at least until they have been tried in the court of law and paid their dues to society in general and the women they wronged in particular. Now, thanks to brave women like Meredith, Lauer might stay away from the limelight and positions of power for a long time, but it does not take away from the fact that it took a lot of silent spectators to keep Lauer on the pedestal he stood on for many years.
As a feminist I could not be happier to bear witness to a watershed moment like the #MeToo movement, it is a shame it did not happen much earlier. Until Harvey Wesintein's ugly monster side was exposed a few months back, men like Lauer hid behind the liberal, feminist ally persona and we lapped it up like warm soup.
His predatory behavior was among the “well-known secrets” of showbiz, and yet it took years and years of abuse for NBC to finally admit they were employing and plumping up the bank balance of a monster. Multiple organizations like CNN, Page Six have reported that when New York Times reporters started investigating Lauer, NBC even tried to cover up his crimes.
Even Variety, which published a story containing sexual harassment allegations made against Lauer by three unnamed women, also reiterated that NBC News protected their most celebrated newsman and the highest paid - at an annual salary of $25 million, and that even though many of his victims "complained to executives at the network about Lauer's behavior," it "fell on deaf ears given the lucrative advertising surrounding 'Today.'"
One of the biggest tragedies about finding out about Lauer personally, has been reconciling with the fact that he is the same guy that asked tough questions to the other "bad guys." I mean, he was best friends with the "Lord of the Lesbians" Ellen DeGeneres herself.
Remember when he asked Bill O'Reily – former Fox correspondent and fellow-sexual predator – to put himself in the shoes of the women he abused? All with a straight face?
“Think about those … women and what they did,” Lauer said. “They came forward and filed complaints against the biggest star at the network they worked at. Think of how intimidating that must have been. Doesn’t that tell you how strongly they felt about the way they were treated about you?”
The icing on the cake was when he asked O'Reily, “You were probably the last guy in the world that they wanted to fire because you were the guy that the ratings and the revenues were built on, you carried that network on your shoulders for a lot of years. So doesn’t it seem safe to assume that the people at Fox News were given a piece of information or given some evidence that simply made it impossible for you to stay on at Fox News?”
Lauer, as it turns out if no different than Weinstein or Charlie Rose or Louis CK or even Garrison Keillor, who played the perfect liberal who publicly champion the rights of women while simultaneously looking for every opportunity to abuse them.
Most of us want to believe that the men that hurt women would fall into certain stereotypes. If he looks put together, takes jibes at Trump, is pro-choice and supports women's healthcare, then he is a feminist. Most people who do terrible things don’t present themselves as monsters. Unfortunately, no human comes with these manuals and we are stuck rooting for monsters hiding behind the "nice guy" masks.
Once Lauer was outed to the world by his brave victims, many came out of the woodworks to say they "always knew." NBC on their part tried to erase Lauer's existence within the realms of their network, having even tried to fire every single talent associated with him. After 30 years, NBC news announced that his top producer, Don Nash, “has decided to step away from his executive producer role," while his favorite contributor, chef Giada De Laurentiis, saw her bookings dry up after Lauer's secret identity was exposed.
However, the question remains, why did NBC continue to project Lauer as the face of their brand, for decades on end, despite receiving multiple complaints about him? Trying to erase the evidence of his existence is barely a repentance for contributing to the growth in wealth and power of a dangerous man. Post the scandal, NBC also issued a requirement that all employees to take an "anti-harassment training" and undergo a “culture assessment.” Another new rule requires all employees report any inappropriate relationships in the workplace — and failure to do so could result in them getting sacked - on account of covering up for colleagues.
These would make it seem like Lauer's incident was shocking and surprising to the network, which it most definitely wasn't, based on all the information we have.
Ann Curry, former NBC correspondent who had an untimely and messy departure from the network, said post the revelation about Lauer, "I would be surprised if many women did not understand that there was a climate of verbal harassment that existed. I think it would be surprising if someone said they didn’t see that. Verbal sexual harassment was pervasive … It was, period.”
To top that off, Page Six reports of a top-secret “roast” of Lauer that took place in October 2008, which, if you hear about, would clear up any doubts you have regarding NBC's knowledge about the Lauer matter.
This alleged roast, which became notorious in the media circle, apparently pushed the limits of "sexist, racist, homophobic and obscene jokes," revealed to everyone in attendance that Lauer not only had a troubled marriage, but also that he is very promiscuous.
“The whole theme was that he does the show and then he has sex with people, with employees,” said Joe Scarborough, who hosts the NBC show 'Morning Joe' and also attended the 2008 Friars Club roast, which was held at the New York Hilton. “So was this whispered behind closed doors? No. It was shouted from the mountaintops and everybody laughed about it.”
Lauer's victims were not just wronged by him, but also by an indifferent work culture where 'The Today Show' co-host was valued more than them. This is same for may others that have been accused of sexual assault in the recent months. Those complicit have found their voice after the monsters hiding behind the masks of "nice guys" were exposed.
Comedian CK's sexually inappropriate behavior was, in fact, common knowledge among those in the community. Michael Shur, one of the biggest names in the field of television comedy, the man behind some of the most brilliantly feminist series, including 'Parks and Recreation and 'Brooklyn Nine Nine' tweeted post CK's scandal: "Don't remember when I heard the rumors about him. But I'm sure it was before the last time he was on Parks and Rec. And that sucks. And I'm sorry. [sic]"
We do not need to even discuss how many people knew and covered up the monstrosities of Weinstein. “Everybody knew. I know that. I was there,” Rose McGowan, one of Weinstein's first victims to openly accuse him, has said.
For good measure, even the men who surrounded him at the zenith of his career, including George Clooney, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck have spoken about how they knew he was a bully and an adulterer, but not that he actually raped women. Really? Who are you trying to sell this movie to?
It makes you wonder, how many less #MeToo instances would we have heard, if only any one of the silent spectators had spoken up and stopped facilitating the predators' crimes.
Closing argument being, allies need to be outraged when they see wrongdoing, not just when it is convenient for them. We need to be open and alert about workplace harassment and stand up to those who use their position of power to harass others - sexually or otherwise.