NBC has some serious explaining to do

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Getty Images/Justin Sullivan

  • NBC seems to have some blind spots regarding sexual misconduct.
  • NBC has said it received the first complaint against Matt Lauer last week, but accounts from those who say they were subjects of or had witnessed Lauer’s inappropriate behavior toward women suggest otherwise.
  • The network also did not go forward with Ronan Farrow’s article detailing allegations of sexual harassment and assault against Harvey Weinstein. The New Yorker ultimately published that report.
  • In 2016, NBC held the 2005 “Access Hollywood” in which Donald Trump was caught on a hot mic making lewd comments about women. The Washington Post broke that story.

As more and more reports of sexual misconduct against powerful men spanning many industries are made public, it has become apparent that NBC has some serious questions to answer about its reporting (or lack thereof) on these stories and its holding its employees accountable for their behavior.

From holding the 2005 “Access Hollywood” tape of Donald Trump, to not going forward with Ronan Farrow’s report detailing accusations against Harvey Weinstein, to prompting questions regarding Matt Lauer’s treatment of women during his 20-year career at the network, NBC has shown that it may have blind spots when it comes to sexual misconduct.

As more details of the allegations of sexual misconduct against Lauer continue to surface, the spotlight will be on Andy Lack, the NBC News boss who is a close friend.

NBC did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.

Here are a few instances that NBC News and Lack might face some tough questions about:


Allegations of sexual misconduct against Matt Lauer spanning years.

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Last week, NBC fired Matt Lauer, who hosted its “Today” show for 20 years.

NBC News’ chairman, Andy Lack, issued a statement that he “received a detailed complaint from a colleague about inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace by Matt Lauer.”

Lack’s statement said that it was “the first complaint about his behavior in the over twenty years he’s been at NBC News” but that the network had “reason to believe this may not have been an isolated incident.”

The day after Lauer’s firing, Variety published a report detailing several allegations against Lauer:

“Several women told Variety they complained to executives at the network about Lauer’s behavior, which fell on deaf ears given the lucrative advertising surrounding ‘Today.’ NBC declined to comment. For most of Lauer’s tenure at ‘Today,’ the morning news show was No. 1 in the ratings, and executives were eager to keep him happy.”

After the Variety report, NBC released a second, slightly different statement: “We can say unequivocally that, prior to Monday night, current NBC News management was never made aware of any complaints about Matt Lauer’s conduct.”

Politico described a source at NBC as saying that Lauer, senior leadership, and human-resources officials were called in for questioning when the network became aware that reporters were investigating Lauer’s behavior toward women. The source told Politico that everyone, including Lauer, denied any knowledge of sexual harassment.

But Lauer had behaved questionably toward women during his two-decade career at NBC.

Katie Couric, who hosted “Today” with Lauer for 15 years, told TMZ in 2012 that Lauer “pinches me on the ass a lot.”

The big question: How much did NBC executives know about Lauer’s behavior?


Letting Ronan Farrow walk out the door with his explosive Harvey Weinstein report.

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In early October, shortly after The New York Times published a bombshell report with allegations of sexual harassment against the producer Harvey Weinstein, The New Yorker published a report by Ronan Farrow detailing more accusations, including three women who said Weinstein raped them.

Questions were raised about why Farrow, who had been a regular correspondent for NBC News since 2013, decided to publish his story in The New Yorker.

Farrow told Rachel Maddow on her MSNBC show that he worked on the story for NBC for several months but that the network ultimately decided to pass on it. HuffPost reported that NBC had concerns about Farrow’s sources.

Farrow disagreed.

“I walked into the door at The New Yorker with an explosively reportable piece that should have been public,” Farrow told Maddow. “In fact, there were multiple determinations at NBC that it was reportable.”

Farrow had also arranged for eight interviews on camera with accusers while working on the report for NBC, The Daily Beast quoted an industry insider as saying.

Farrow’s New Yorker article included multiple women – including Mira Sorvino, Rosanna Arquette, and Asia Argento – speaking on the record about their experiences with the producer.

But NBC told The Daily Beast that Farrow’s story that he brought to the network was nowhere near as complete as his piece in The New Yorker, adding that Farrow didn’t have accusers willing to go on the record at the time.

For weeks at NBC, The Daily Beast reported, the sources and scripts by Farrow and a producer, Rich McHugh, were fact-checked and legally reviewed – but in the end, the network was unsatisfied.

The big question: Farrow and NBC have distinctly different takes on why the network chose to pass on his Weinstein story – whose version is more accurate?


Holding the 2005 “Access Hollywood” tape.

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NBC

In October 2016, a few days before the first heated presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, a tape of Trump making lewd comments about women was leaked to The Washington Post.

A hot mic captured Trump talking on a bus with Billy Bush of NBC’s “Access Hollywood” in 2005.

“I moved on her, and I failed,” Trump said. “I’ll admit it. I did try and f— her. She was married … And I moved on her very heavily. In fact, I took her out furniture shopping. She wanted to get some furniture. I said, ‘I’ll show you where they have some nice furniture.’ I moved on her like a b—-, but I couldn’t get there.”

Trump and Bush then noticed an actress named Arianne Zucker outside.

“I’ve gotta use some Tic Tacs, just in case I start kissing her,” Trump told Bush on the bus. “You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful – I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything … grab them by the p—y. You can do anything.”

According to The Post, NBC was aware the tape existed days before it leaked but held it while lawyers were reviewing its material.

The Post also reported that producers at “Access Hollywood” had notified the network about the tape. The producers had combed their archives of interviews with Trump after hearing about inappropriate remarks he made about female contestants on his NBC reality show, “The Apprentice,” the report said.

The big question: Did NBC hold the tape for longer than it needed to, and, if so, why?