Matt Lauer is not the first and will definitely not be the last of the sexual harassment reckoning (Image via Radar Online)
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Matt Lauer is not the first and will definitely not be the last of the sexual harassment reckoning (Image via Radar Online)

Former Today Show co-host Matt Lauer is another example of men in power using women to their advantage.

The multiple allegations of sexual harassment against Matt Lauer, now-former Today Show co-host, continue to add to the stream of sexual allegations against powerful men in the media. Unless you have been living under a rock, you will know that Matt Lauer, on November 29, 2017, was fired from his position at NBC after one of his subordinates reported him for sexual misconduct. She, who chose to remain anonymous, stated that the sexual harassment had begun in 2014 and continued until his termination. Since then, at least eight women have come forward with allegations of inappropriate behavior.

The allegations against Matt Lauer shocked the nation, propelling the story to headlines all over the U.S. Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb, also from the Today Show, expressed their shock and dismay over the allegations against their now-former co-host. Guthrie, who had become close with Lauer after years of working at NBC together, said she was “affected the most” by the news. Kotb, whom Lauer had also worked closely with, expressed similar sentiments.

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Though the news of Lauer’s ongoing sexual misconduct shocked the Today Show to its core, there were telltale signs of his inappropriate behavior before the allegations went public. Andrew Lack, chairman of NBC News, said, “While it is the first complaint about [Lauer’s] behavior in the over 20 years he’s been at NBC News, we were also presented with reason to believe this may not have been an isolated incident.” A notable incident in which Lauer was accused of abusive behavior occurred in 2006, when his wife, Annette Roque, filed for divorce Roque claimed he engaged in “cruel and inhumane acts,” such as angry and micromanaging behavior. However, the case was dropped and they now have three children together.

Another notable incident in which Lauer engaged in sexually inappropriate behavior involved media personality Katie Couric claiming he frequently touched her butt. Couric, who co-hosted Today for nine years with Lauer, told Andy Cohen, “He pinches me on the ass a lot.” However, though her depiction of his behavior is certainly troubling, Couric had obviously grown close to Lauer during her time at the Today Show, similar to Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb. Due to the complexity of her situation, she has not released an official statement on Lauer’s situation but claims she will do so when she’s ready.

As for Lauer, at least eight women have come forward with allegations of sexual misconduct against the now-disgraced TV personality. The first woman, though anonymous, was revealed to be a subordinate to Lauer at NBC, which inevitably creates an uneven, and dangerous, power dynamic. Lauer, who was formerly NBC’s most expensive asset, essentially wielded his wealth, power, and fame to take advantage of subordinates without fear of consequence, and he managed to do so for decades. However, the recent allegations against him, which uncovered a career filled with sexually inappropriate behavior, reflect a shift in the public awareness and perception of sexual harassment in the workplace.

American culture, in recent years, has seen an undeniable shift regarding sexual harassment in the workplace. Previously, issues of this matter were largely kept silent, largely for professional reasons. One of Lauer’s accusers was afraid to go public at the time of her assault due to the potentially negative effect the publicity of the situation would have on her emerging career. However, popular culture has largely shifted so that publicity of sexual misconduct in the workplace is becoming increasingly common. The paradigm shift regarding sexually inappropriate behavior was led by the Harvey Weinstein scandal of September 2017. The shock factor surrounding the Weinstein situation, along with the star power to his name, has successfully empowered more people to come forward with their own allegations against various popular and powerful public figures.

Lauer’s situation is a disturbing parallel to the recent Harvey Weinstein scandal: rich, powerful men in the entertainment industry who wield their power to behave inappropriately without fear of consequence. However, the Weinstein allegations not only destroyed the career and legacy of a media mogul, but ushered in a new era in which the sexually inappropriate behavior of rich and famous men is publicized, and ultimately brings about their downfall. Countless powerful men in Hollywood have been accused of sexual misconduct, and the allegations have only begun.

Another parallel between the Weinstein situation and Lauer’s is the complete demise of not only their professional lives but their personal ones as well. Lauer was not only immediately fired by NBC, but also risks the destruction of his marriage to Annette Roque. Lauer is now reportedly “fighting” to save his marriage, which is not only obviously strategic but questionable as well, given his history of abusive and controlling behavior.

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However, it’s clear that Lauer is attempting to do what any (former) powerful figure would do in the midst of a scandal: save face by holding together some semblance of a personal life, following the destruction of his professional life. Lauer’s attempt to save his marriage from divorce once again reflects the necessity of his wife in order to clean up his image, in the wake of sexual harassment allegations by multiple women.

One of the many reasons Lauer wielded so much power in his position at NBC was because he was NBC’s highest paid anchor, bringing in a hefty salary of $25 million annually. If Lauer did not have money and power to that degree, perhaps he would have met his downfall sooner, as he would not have been able to use his power as a shield against consequence. However, his departure has ushered in a sort of golden era for the Today Show: ratings have increased, which now makes the show #1 in morning shows. The increase in ratings can not only be attributed to the show with which Lauer was formerly associated, but it’s also possible some are rejoicing from the scandal and want for a Today Show without the presence of a sexual predator.

Writer Profile

Karen Guan

Southern Methodist University
Finance, Public Policy

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