I’m not in the business of defending alleged rapists. Especially on the day after Yom Kippur, the holiday of atoning for your sins. But watching the all-day coverage of the new criminal allegations against Matt Lauer Wednesday made me intensely doubtful of his guilt.
In the morning, I watched Lauer’s old coworker Savannah Guthrie speak in a shaky voice near tears. She and Hoda Kotb presented a united moral front, nearly a repeat performance of November 29, 2017 when NBC canned Lauer for sexual misconduct. Hoda remarked that they said a prayer before they came on air.
I could barely believe the emotions I was watching.
They were shocked. Who was this man, this monster they thought they knew?
“I feel like we owe it to our viewers to pause for a moment,” Guthrie said Wednesday. “This is shocking and appalling.”
Except the allegation is infinitely more serious than sexual misconduct of 2017. Like life-ruining, hang yourself serious: Lauer is being accused of rape. The accuser is Brooke Nevils, a former NBC producer and assistant to Meredith Vieira, who said the crime happened while she and Lauer were covering the Olympics in Sochi, Russia in 2014. (RELATED: Matt Lauer Accused Of Raping Former NBC Staffer In Ronan Farrow Tell-All Book)
Guthrie said she supported Nevils and “any woman who comes forward with claims.”
To be sure, so does Hoda.
“We don’t know all the facts on all of this, but there are not allegations of an affair, there are allegations of a crime,” she said. “I think that’s shocking to all of us here who have sat with Matt for many, many years. So I think we’re going to just sort of continue to process this part of this horrific story and as you said, our thoughts are with Brooke. It’s not easy what she did, to come forward. It’s not easy at all.”
Guthrie went on, “It is just very painful. For all of us at NBC who are at the Today show, it is very very difficult.”
This time around, Guthrie didn’t stress that Lauer had been her good friend.
Neither “news” woman expressed disbelief about the rape. God forbid these two women commit acts of journalism and report the details. Because if they did, if they reported what we know actually happened here, viewers might doubt the allegations. They’d have to. Instead, they left viewers thinking that they, too, had been duped by the now Jekyll and Hyde-like Lauer, a man they’d watched for decades.
Or, as Hoda put it, a door opens up: “You feel like you know someone for 12 years, you feel like you know them inside and out, and all of a sudden a door opens up and it is a part of them you didn’t know.”
#MeToo starlit Gretchen Carlson received $20 million from Fox News’s parent company 21st Century Fox after allegedly enduring the come ons of Roger Ailes, who is now dead. Obviously she had to wade into the Lauer situation.
As queen of a movement, it’s what you do at a time like this.
She thanked Savanah and Hoda for their “bravery” and for believing women. So there was no confusion there on Lauer’s guilt. Nevils said she was raped. So she was raped.
Carlson even gave them a mini-pep talk.
“Thanks for your bravery this morning @SavannahGuthrie and @hodakotb in reporting on your former colleague #MattLauer and the rape allegation while he was at @NBCNews – I know how tough that was. Thank you for supporting all women and believing them. #befierce #metoo #BelieveWomen.”
Ex-NBCer Megyn Kelly also spouted off in favor of Nevils.
“The attacks being heaped on Brooke Nevils by ppl who have no clue how unchecked power can infect a workplace are deeply misguided,” Kelly, who detailed how Roger Ailes allegedly sexually harassed her at Fox News, tweeted. “No sane person can think Lauer’s behavior here-that to which he *admits*-was anything less than abhorrent. How was he able to get away w/it so long?”
Really? Is this how journalism works in the post #MeToo era of 2019?
Believe the woman, ignore the facts. Got it.
By the way, Kelly and actress Charlize Theron gushed over each other about Kelly’s happiness about being played by Theron in the upcoming film Bombshell.
“I’m her fan,” Kelly told the Daily Mail. “She seems smart, seems like a good mom, so I could do worse.”
Theron said Kelly is “incredibly kind” for her kind words about her.
Let’s get back to the alleged rape. Lauer issued a thorough 1,300-word denial. “It’s outrageous. So, after not speaking out to protect my children, it is now with their full support that I say ‘enough,’ ” he said.
At times it was cringey.
“We performed oral sex on each other, we had vaginal sex, and we had anal sex. Each act was mutual and completely consensual.”
Lauer said their affair continued once they returned to Manhattan, a detail that is readily corroborated by his accuser’s account of what happened.
Look, no one is doubting the dickishness of Matt Lauer. He pursued sexual relationships with young women at NBC outside of his marriage, which, by the way, is over. There were seven accusers. That’s not the sign of greatness in anyone’s mind.
“There’s just something annoying about him,” a broadcast source told The Mirror. “Supercilious and mean.”
Hell, even New Zealand hates him. Last year, the country’s authorities questioned his “good character” and threatened to take away his five-bedroom ranch that sits on a lake and is adjacent to a UNESCO World Heritage site. Foreigners who purchase significant assets there are required to meet certain standards. Because of the hanky panky and the firing, Lauer’s character was put under a microscope. By law, they could have charged him with an offense.
Authorities investigated. They concluded he was OK to own the digs. But a government official ultimately said the country “does not condone” the way Lauer behaved at NBC.
Yeah, he’s awful. But sodomy is an entirely different ball of wax.
Surfing for details on the story made my head hurt. I spotted one fiery red flag after another. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. How could Savannah and Hoda not report the facts? How could hosts of ABC’s “The View” blindly side with the woman just for being a woman who made an accusation?
Admittedly, I wasn’t in the room where the alleged sex crime occurred. Guess who also wasn’t there? Meghan McCain. I would sooner have Olivia Benson from Law and Order: SVU investigating this than whatever circus this has turned into in the nation’s media class.
“I WAS DONE WITH MATT LAUER AFTER ANN CURRY!” McCain shouted on “The View” Wednesday in a voice meant for a football field not a TV set. “I THOUGHT HE WAS A JERK AFTER THE WAY HE TREATED HER. I THOUGHT FROM THAT POINT ON THERE SHOULD HAVE BEEN RAMIFICATIONS FOR HIS JOB.”
Wait. We’re talking about a woman accusing a man of rape. Not a man being mean to his crying coworker on her way out the door.
Lauer wasn’t fired for being a jerk to former NBC “TODAY Show host Ann Curry. But that didn’t stop McCain from somehow connecting the dots weaving their way through her mind. (RELATED: NBC Fires Matt Lauer For Sexual Misconduct)
Speaking of Curry, she put a nail in Lauer’s coffin by going on Twitter Wednesday and calling Brooke Nevils a “credible young woman of good character. She came to NBC News an eager and guileless 20-something, brimming with talent. I believe she is telling the truth. And that breaks my heart.”
Also not in the Sochi hotel room: Curry and McCain’s fellow panelists Sunny Hostin and Abby Huntsman.
McCain’s remarks on Lauer during “Hot Topics” had nothing to do with rape. She has a right to her view. But what kind of a point was she making? Sure, Lauer is an asshole. But does that automatically mean he’s guilty of rape?
Hostin was worse. She wanted to know why NBC didn’t protect Nevils. Seriously — is she willing to testify in a court of law that Brooke Nevils is 100 percent accurate in her portrayal of the events?
“If it is true she reported to her superiors this terrible, terrible allegation, I don’t understand why they didn’t protect her,” she said of NBC. “I don’t understand why they did not report a crime, and I don’t understand why they’re still working there,” she said.
She meant alleged crime didn’t she?
Huntsman also took issue with NBC. “That’s what happens when you try to cover things up,” said Huntsman said. “More people should have been fired that were not.”
Not once did the women discuss those pesky irritating facts that Nevils pursued a sexual relationship with Lauer even after the Sochi rendezvous allegedly turned into a night of Lauer raping her while she wept into a pillow. That night, according to Catch and Kill, a new book out by Ronan Farrow, Lauer asked if she liked it. She said yes. He didn’t use lubricant. She bled for days.
Farrow reported in his book that Nevils said she told “like a million people” about what happened. She never told police. She did tell Meredith Vieira, who advised her to lawyer up and go to NBC’s HR department. Which is when Lauer lost his job.
So let’s review. Nevils told Lauer she liked the anal sex. She continued the relationship with the cad well after he allegedly raped her. NBC gave her seven figures that she never really wanted (eye roll). She called the relationship “transactional.” Meaning what, just sex? He got something out of it and so did she? Lauer says he didn’t oversee her job in any way. Nevils said she feared his power would do her in professionally. So she kept sleeping with him. That is, until he stopped calling.
Why didn’t Meghan McCain, Sunny Hostin, Joy Behar or Whoopi Goldberg discuss any of these seemingly crucial details?
Candace Owens, a conservative commentator, was among the few women to publicly raise doubts about Nevil’s allegation.
“I think Matt Lauer is a scumbag — as a father and husband,” she tweeted. “But I also think his accuser — a 30 yr old woman who clearly exchanged sex for favor and promotion at work is also a scum bag. STOP the #metoo insanity.”
Owens wasn’t finished.
“Matt Lauer is telling the truth in his statement about the affair & it’s obvious,” she wrote. “Nobody in the mainstream media will have the courage to acknowledge it. You do not get raped, then have a months long sexual affair with your rapist, from the office, to his apartment, to overseas.”
Ann Coulter — not exactly a beloved conservative pundit — took a moment to grind her heel into NBC’s throat: “Come to NBC for the anal rape, extra-marital affairs and cover-ups — stay for the fake documentaries, con men and a doddering Robert De Niro!”
Like McCain, NYT op-ed columnist Nicholas Kristof brought up the nonsense about Lauer being a dick to Ann Curry. “It’s true that NBC eventually ousted Matt Lauer,” he tweeted. “But it also fired @AnnCurry, an outstanding journalist who had tried to stand up for women at NBC. If NBC had then fired Lauer and kept Curry it would have been infinitely better in every way.”
(Right, except for ratings.)
BuzzFeed News’ Alex Berg also erred on the side of the rape allegation being true. Why not?
“Matt Lauer may be gone from TODAY, but the pain he caused evidently still runs deep on the show,” she tweeted. “It’s bullshit that the women he worked with are *still* having to shoulder the burden of his trash behavior. This is how sexual assault and misconduct reverberates through workplaces.”
Headline after headline after headline. Alleged rape. Accused of rape. Rape. Rape. And more rape. At this point, even if Lauer didn’t do what Nevil has alleged, his reputation is destroyed.
People’s story included info for the National Sex Assault hotline at the conclusion of its coverage.
In an absolutely ridiculous waste of editorial space, People also ran an “exclusive” story saying that Annette Roque, Lauer’s ex-wife, had “broken her silence” about the rape allegation.
Except, actually, no. She didn’t do nothing of the sort.
“In response to your inquiry, our client has asked us to tell you that now that the parties are officially divorced, her priority and only concern is for their wonderful children,” Roque’s lawyer John M. Teitler said. “Our client will make no further statements.”
A feminist geek site called The Mary Sue firmly sided with Lauer’s accuser. The scathing story ran with this headline: “Matt Lauer Issues A Disgusting Victim-Blaming Statement In Response to Rape Allegations.”
“Nevils displaying courage in coming forward, and for Lauer to accuse her of lying is gross,” the author wrote. “He abused his power, he (allegedly) abused her physically, and now he should suffer the consequences for that, plain and simple.”
“Allegedly” is flippantly in parenthesis because they don’t believe there is anything alleged about it.
The story included a warning for victims: “**Trigger warning for victim blaming language and for descriptions of sexual assault.**”
After ripping Lauer apart and insinuating in every way possible that he’s guilty, the story includes this ironic notice about their comment section:
“The Mary Sue has a strict comment policy that forbids, but is not limited to, personal insults toward anyone, hate speech, and trolling.”
This really means anyone whose name is not Matt Lauer.
Gee, thanks Mary Sue for being so unbiased and objective.
Jezebel also predictably trashed Lauer for insisting that he is the “real victim” here.
“This morning, Matt Lauer wrote a 1,300-word letter defending himself from an allegation of rape, a document that makes for a phenomenal case study in how a powerful man can turn himself into a victim,” the feminist site reported. “…In his lengthy attempt at defense, Lauer predictably assails his accuser’s character while casting himself as patriarchal protector, besieged family man, and loving but imperfect dad.”
How dare he defend himself against such a gravely serious allegation.
The Jezebel story accused Lauer of “slut-shaming” Nevils by him saying, “She seemed to know exactly what she wanted to do.” The piece also purports that casting Nevils as a “spurned lover” and “rejected woman” are “favorite tropes” of the #MeToo movement.
By late Wednesday afternoon, NBC News Chairman Andy Lack released a statement through his apparent spokesman, Dylan Byers, a NBC reporter. How embarrassing. Is Byers going to have an objective view of his own company? Let the corporate flack deal with Lack’s shitty optics after passing on the bombshell Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment story that eventually found its home in The New Yorker. Which, by the way, is why NBC is bending itself into a pretzel to side with Nevils.
Byers tweeted this from “ANDY LACK” (yeah, he used all caps because this is important and so is he for reporting this SCOOP): “NBC News assigned the Harvey Weinstein story to Ronan, we completely supported it over many months with resources – both financial and editorial. After seven months, without one victim or witness on the record, he simply didn’t have a story that met our standard….”
More ANDY LACK through Byers: “It disappoints me to say that even with passage of time, Farrow’s account has become neither more accurate, nor more respectful of the dedicated colleagues he worked with here at NBC News. He uses a variety of tactics to paint a fundamentally untrue picture.”
If you want to see “The View” in all its sanctimoniousness, just check back to how they reacted to the news of Lauer’s sudden departure from NBC in late 2017.
Joy Behar: “What is it about morning television?”
Whoopi Goldberg: “Lot of men on it.”
Really? Hmmm. Let’s see. In that year (and now), MSNBC has Mika Brzezinski. ABC’s “Good Morning America” has Robin Roberts, Lara Spencer, Ginger Zee and Amy Robach, Sara Haines and Keke Palmer. CBS “This Morning” has Gayle King, who’s reportedly earning $5.5 million a year in a three-year deal. NBC’s “TODAY” Show has Savannah Guthrie, Hoda Kotb and Jenna Bush Hager.
In 2017, Sara Haines was especially pained by the Lauer news.
“I personally had such great experiences with Matt,” she said. “He cheer-leaded for me and supported me … It’s a dark day at the today show.”
Behar replied, “Don’t you think the executives at these places have some clue? …We all know what goes on in the places we work.”
In 2017, Meghan McCain said almost exactly what she said this week. (Hey, at least she’s consistent.)
“The way Matt Lauer treated Ann Curry, that’s when I was done with him,” she said. “When she was let go…I just thought the way they treated her on the way out was so disrespectful. I just felt, would you treat a man that way on the way out?”
Behar shot back at her, “You know, karma’s a bitch.”
I’m all for ruining a man’s life if he rapes someone. That seems like a no brainer.
But none of us knows if that is really what happened here.
To conveniently leave out details because a woman was “brave enough” to come forward is irresponsible journalism. In medicine, doctors can be kicked out of the profession for making fatal errors.
When it happens in journalism, sometimes, horribly, it just slides.