It was an occasional segment on “Last Week Tonight,” one that host John Oliver seemed to use to lampoon the awkward sexual tension on “CBS This Morning.”
“And now … ” a narrator would intone at the beginning, before segueing into the latest examples of double entendres and sexual innuendos on the long-running morning show that, up until this week, was hosted by a trio of veteran anchors: Gayle King, Norah O’Donnell and Charlie Rose.
“And now,” one of Oliver’s segments began, “ ‘CBS This Morning’s’ awkward sex talk … ”
“And now,” another segment started, “27 seconds of the breakfast-time foreplay that is ‘CBS This Morning’ … ”
The clips were mildly awkward, at best, and downright cringe-inducing, at worst.
And now, of course, they have been cast in a different light after The Washington Post published a detailed report in which eight women alleged Rose made unwanted sexual advances to them, from the late 1990s to 2011. The women claimed Rose’s inappropriate behavior included lewd phone calls, walking around naked in their presence, or groping their breasts, buttocks or genital areas.
CBS News fired Rose after the report published. In a statement, Rose said he was “greatly embarrassed” and apologized for his behavior.
“I have behaved insensitively at times, and I accept responsibility for that, though I do not believe that all of these allegations are accurate,” Rose said. “I always felt that I was pursuing shared feelings, even though I now realize I was mistaken.”
But videos of the “And now” segments from “Last Week Tonight” live on and offer a glimpse into the weird sexual banter that regularly occurred on “CBS This Morning.”
In one video (titled “And now, more of ‘CBS This Morning’s’ awkward sex talk … ”), Rose tells co-host King that it looks like she got a tan.
“You noticed?” King responds, while shifting a bit of her dress to reveal more of her collarbone.
The three anchors laugh, before Rose asks: “Can I see that one more time?”
Later in the same video, co-host O’Donnell asks Rose, “Charlie, don’t you find it attractive when women make the first move?”
He nods. “Absolutely,” he says. “There’s no reason to think a man is not going to like you before you come over.”
In another on-air exchange, O’Donnell tells Rose: “You like sweet things. I know you do.”
“I do, but not cupcakes,” Rose responds, laughing. He then abruptly leans toward O’Donnell, pulls her face in with both hands and kisses her on the cheek. All three anchors appear to laugh it off.
The videos began recirculating after news of the allegations against Rose broke Monday, forever shading the way some viewers saw the “Last Week Tonight” segments.
“In light of this Charlie Rose news, the running John Oliver segment seems even weirder and grosser and more uncomfortable,” Nick Wing, an editor at HuffPost, tweeted Monday.
Others said they had always taken the segments as some kind of unspoken red flag about Rose, akin to the way comedians such as Seth MacFarlane and shows such as “Entourage” and “30 Rock” had alluded to Harvey Weinstein’s behavior as a sordid inside joke long before it was publicly exposed.
“I’m pretty sure ‘Last Week Tonight With John Oliver’ was trying to warn us all about Charlie Rose,” film critic Mike McGranaghan said.
Still others accused King and O’Donnell of being complicit in encouraging Rose’s behavior, whether knowingly or unintentionally, by participating in such flirtatious exchanges on their show.
It is unclear how or why “Last Week Tonight” came to put together and air these montages. Did Oliver — or any of the writers or producers on the satirical weekly news show — know about Rose’s alleged off-air behavior? Or was it a mere coincidence that they had highlighted the weird sexual vibe on the show in a recurring segment? HBO representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday morning.
Though it is an HBO show, “Last Week Tonight” is filmed at CBS’s New York studios. Oliver made at least a few appearances on “CBS This Morning” and appeared to enjoy calling out the show’s weird sexual vibe in person with the hosts. In a 2015 appearance, O’Donnell referred to an “And now” segment and jokingly asked why Oliver wanted to “shine a light” on their “sex talk.”
“We don’t so much shine a light on it as your sex talk shines a light outwards and catches the eye,” Oliver joked.
“You’re welcome,” King chimed in, as Oliver teased Rose for subsequently “covering his face like a bashful French girl.” They all laughed and poked fun at Rose for being embarrassed at the mention of sex.
“There’s much more sexual tension here than with whatever Matt Lauer’s doing,” Oliver said.
On Tuesday morning’s episode of “CBS This Morning,” the tone was decidedly different as King and O’Donnell responded to the allegations against Rose, who was missing from the broadcast.
“This is a moment that demands a frank and honest assessment about where we stand and more generally the safety of women,” O’Donnell said. “Let me be very clear: There is no excuse for this alleged behavior. It is systematic and pervasive.”
She added: “This has to end. This behavior is wrong. Period.”
King said she had only slept an hour and 42 minutes the night before and was still “reeling” after reading The Post’s report.
“I’m still trying to process all of this. I’m still trying to sort it out,” King said. “Because this is not the man I know, but I’m also clearly on the side of the women who have been very hurt and very damaged by this.”