We don’t know much about the accuser (or accusers) alleging sexual harassment by Matt Lauer. NBC offered no details on Wednesday morning when announcing the “Today” cohost’s firing, saying only that two days earlier the network had “received a detailed complaint from a colleague about inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace” and had “reason to believe this may not have been an isolated incident.”
But Lauer put his partner on “Today,” Savannah Guthrie, in a different kind of difficult situation by leaving her to deliver the news to viewers — and react to it, practically in real time, on live television.
“We just learned this moments ago — just this morning,” a visibly shaken Guthrie said on the air. “As I’m sure you can imagine, we are devastated, and we are still processing all of this. And I will tell you, right now, we do not know more than what I just shared with you.”
This has become a familiar scene on TV: A female host tasked with explaining to the audience why a male colleague is suddenly absent. It is a wrenching assignment, cruelly emblematic of the problem. Even after his dismissal, an accused harasser can put a woman in one more uncomfortable position.
Last week, “CBS This Morning” co-hosts Gayle King and Norah O’Donnell fulfilled the unpleasant duty of notifying viewers that partner Charlie Rose had been suspended, following a Washington Post report that chronicled a pattern of alleged harassment.
“I really am reeling,” King said. “I got one hour and 42 minutes of sleep last night. Both my son and my daughter called me. Oprah called me and said, ‘Are you okay?’ I am not okay.”
CBS fired Rose later that day.
Last month, MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski informed the “Morning Joe” audience that five women had leveled sexual-harassment allegations against “our friend” Mark Halperin, a regular contributor to the program.
The next day, after NBC suspended Halperin, Brzezinski addressed the allegations again.
“I will speak for both Joe [Scarborough] and myself here: Our hearts break for both Mark and his family because he is our friend,” Brzezinski said. “But we fully support NBC’s decision here. We want to know more about these disturbing allegations. We want to hear the stories. We need to know what happened.”
NBC ultimately fired Halperin.
In April, Dana Perino, then one of the hosts of “The Five,” was charged with hosting Bill O’Reilly’s show on the day that Fox News fired O’Reilly amid an advertiser boycott that stemmed from sexual harassment allegations.
“Before we get to any other big stories of the day, we want to address a situation many of you may already be aware of,” Perino said at the top of the show. “Bill O’Reilly, who hosted this program for 20 years, is leaving the Fox News Channel. We know that you, his very loyal viewers, will have a lot of feelings about this, and we will talk more about it later in the program.”
Looking back on the experience of having to report the ousting of her colleague, Perino told Business Insider last month that “there was a moment where I was, like, how did I end up being this person?”
On Wednesday, Guthrie offered this reflection: “For the moment, all we can say is that we are heartbroken. I’m heartbroken for Matt. He is my dear, dear friend and my partner. And he is beloved by many, many people here. And I’m heartbroken for the brave colleague who came forward to tell her story and any other women who have their own stories to tell.
“And we are grappling with a dilemma that so many people have faced these past few weeks: How do you reconcile your love for someone with the revelation that they have behaved badly? And I don’t know the answer to that.”