NBC Universal Report Affirms Credibility Of Accusations Against Lauer

May 9, 2018
Originally published on May 9, 2018 1:32 pm
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

NBCUniversal has released a report evaluating NBC News in the wake of the Matt Lauer sexual harassment scandal. It finds that the multiple accusations against Matt Lauer were credible, but it says there is no proof news executives knew. The review called for reforms, saying employees at NBC did not feel comfortable reporting complaints to HR. NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik has been reporting on this. He's on the line from New York.

Hi, David.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: Good morning, David.

GREENE: Let me ask you first - this report basically says that news executives at NBC had no idea about this stuff. But we've heard these news reports that Lauer's behavior was really common knowledge at the network. Can you reconcile that?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, the review argues that what was certainly commonly gossiped about internally was Lauer's presumed romantic entanglements. He kept showing up in the gossip columns. He was linked to a lot of fairly famous people romantically, even while he was married. And they said that the - they didn't have proof that there was any common knowledge of anything beyond the belief that he had had these romantic involvements - again, if they're people outside with perhaps one exception - that that was something that was a problem for his workplace.

So they seem to dispute the idea that the idea of him sexually harassing women was common knowledge, although Ann Curry, his former co-host, said she did raise concerns when she left the network a couple years ago. She didn't make a specific allegation about a specific female according to what the review found and, therefore, there was nothing there to follow up in that way.

GREENE: So this report was released by NBC itself, which makes me want to know how it was put together and how much credence we should be giving it.

FOLKENFLIK: Fair question. And there are skeptical voices both inside and outside NBC about this. We should point out it was done by NBCUniversal. That's the parent division of NBC News. And - it all belongs to Comcast, you know, entertainment and media company. The report itself was done by a woman named Kim Harris, a very respected figure. She's the general counsel for NBCUniversal, a former senior official at the Justice Department, former heavyweight corporate lawyer in private practice. And she's seen as a very serious person. This report was released publicly.

That said, you know, people can argue that news organizations can, in a sense, do damage control if it's done internally and PR when it had its problems contracted with a private firm. CBS News, having similar things with Charlie Rose, has just contracted with a private firm. Fox News, notably, did not do a review like this for any kind of public review. So NBC seems to have charted a middle course.

GREENE: And in this middle course report, as you put it, what sort of changes might come at NBC? What does the report call for here?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, it says there wasn't a lot of trust to go to HR for two reasons. One, HR, the human resources division, was seen as closely aligned with news leadership, perhaps not wanting to hear bad news, even in glass-walled offices right near news executives and therefore very visible. And the other thing was Lauer engaged in a lot of very sexually charged banter and flirtation for which there seemed to be no consequences and seemed, in retrospect, to be making certain kinds of sexual approaches to women that way. They said, you know, women needed - and employees needed to feel much more comfortable about doing that at NBC and suggested some ways that that could be accomplished.

GREENE: And finally, David, former NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw was recently accused of sexual harassment by three former colleagues. Two of them went on the record as - you know, events going back decades. Where does that stand?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, NBC talked to Brokaw about that - Tom Brokaw. This was not part of the review. He has vigorously denied this. NBC News - or NBC, I should say, has reached out to the woman who was a former correspondent who made the most serious allegation. And she has not, to date, decided to participate with the network. And therefore, it sort of stands, just kind of lingering out there without any resolution.

GREENE: NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik on the line with us from our New York bureau.

David, thanks.

FOLKENFLIK: You bet. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.