Democracy Dies in Darkness

The Fix | Analysis

Matt Lauer recently grilled Bill O'Reilly about sexual harassment. Lauer could have been talking about himself.

November 30, 2017 at 8:16 AM

Two months before sexual-harassment allegations led to his own firing, Matt Lauer sat on the “Today” show set and grilled Bill O'Reilly about accusations against the former Fox News host.

In retrospect, the interview is incredibly ironic. Lauer could have been talking about his own situation when he said this: “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.”

And this: “You don't let your number-one guy go unless you have information that you think makes him. ... ”

And this: “Did you ever send a lewd text or email to another employee?”

And this: “Did you ever have any human resources cases brought against you?”

And this: “Think about those . . . women and what they did. They came forward and filed complaints against the biggest star at the network they worked at. Think of how intimidating that must have been, how nerve-racking that must have been. Doesn't that tell you how strongly they felt about the way they were treated?”

NBC said on Wednesday that Lauer, like O'Reilly, had never been the subject of an HR complaint. After the firing, Variety reported that Lauer “was known for making lewd comments verbally or over text messages.”

Lauer was the “number-one guy” at the “Today” show, arguably “the biggest star at the network” and “probably the last guy in the world that [NBC] wanted to fire.”

Variety quoted an unnamed former NBC reporter who said network executives “protected the s--t out of Matt Lauer.”

Lauer on Thursday released a statement in which he said “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.”

It would have been hard for him to completely deny the allegations, considering his own reasoning. He suggested that O'Reilly's accusers are credible because only a strong sense of having been wronged could have overcome the intimidation factor.

The same could now be said of the women speaking up against Lauer.

This post has been updated with a statement from Lauer.

Callum Borchers covered the intersection of politics and media. He left The Washington Post in June 2018. He joined The Post in 2015 from the Boston Globe, where his beats included national politics, technology and the business of sports. He is a former editor of Citizen's News in Naugatuck, Conn.

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