Until this morning, Today show anchor Matt Lauer was one of the highest-paid people in television, with an estimated annual salary north of $20 million. Today, he’s out of a job because of, in the words of NBC News Chairman Andrew Lack, “inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace.”
While we’ve yet to learn of just what kind of “inappropriate sexual behavior” Lauer stands accused, we do know that he’s a sexist jerk who imperiled the nation because of his sexism. Because when you’re one of the highest-paid people in television news, you really can imperil the nation through your biases.
Lauer was one among a group of mighty newsmen who, during the 2016 presidential campaign, sought to paint Hillary Clinton as duplicitous and deceptive—charges reserved for women since that time the men who wrote the Bible invented Eve. Others include Mark Halperin and Glenn Thrush, whose names may be fresh in your mind, thanks to allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct against them.
While Halperin rejects allegations that he ever assaulted anybody, he has apologized for behaving badly. (He is accused of hitting one woman, and throwing another against the window of a restaurant before forcing a kiss on her. That’s in addition to accusations of masturbating in front of one woman colleague, and rubbing his genitals against three others.) Allegations against Thrush, which are of a lesser order for behavior not exhibited in the workplace, are currently being investigated by his employer, The New York Times, which has suspended him while the investigation is under way. Charges against Halperin, a bestselling author who was a frequent commentator on cable news programs, were first reported by CNN, and pertain to his time as a lead journalist at ABC News.
On September 7, 2016, Lauer hosted a forum featuring Clinton and Trump that was to have focused on how each presidential candidate would approach the role of commander-in-chief. As I wrote at the time, Lauer held each candidate to completely different standards, dwelling at length on Clinton’s use of a private email server during her tenure as secretary of state—a situation already litigated in the press and of which an FBI investigation had found no breach of national security, and which the candidate had herself admitted as an error of judgment. In fact, Lauer directed one-third of Clinton’s screen time during the forum to this very issue, rather than the many burning foreign policy issues consuming the world at the time, issues on which she had exponentially higher levels of expertise than Trump. Meanwhile, Lauer never challenged Trump on his call for the Russian Federation to hack the contents of Clinton’s private server.
From that September 2016 column:
When questioning Clinton, Lauer was all alpha-male, interrupting her and tsk-tsking her for criticizing her opponent after he had asked her not to do so. But when paired with Trump, it became clear who was the alpha in that set-up. It clearly wasn't Lauer, who allowed Trump to talk over him, and to evade specifics. When Trump criticized Clinton, Lauer allowed him to slide.
The following day, Halperin appeared on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, taking issue with co-host Joe Scarborough’s contention that Clinton should have just refused to devote as much time to the email server question as Lauer demanded.
“As a journalist and as an American, I can’t advocate that and say, yeah, that’s what she should do because there are unanswered questions,” Halperin said. “I don’t think you can say, sorry, I did it and then spend time explaining why you did nothing wrong.”
“As a journalist and as an American”! How ’bout as a sexist pig? Because that’s what this was really about. I mean, as a journalist and an American, how could you not expect the host of a candidate forum about commander-in-chiefing to question a candidate about his appeal to a hostile power for intervention in the U.S. election campaign, or about his smearing of a Gold Star family? Oh, when he’s the man who’s running against the woman. Funny how guys with reputations for abusing women don’t want a woman to be in charge of the armed forces.
As New York magazine’s Rebecca Traister noted last month, Halperin’s gendered narrative about Clinton began long ago. She wrote:
Mark Halperin co-authored Game Change, the soapy account of the 2008 election (excerpted in this magazine), which featured all kinds of history-making candidates who were not powerful white men. Halperin’s view of Hillary Clinton in particular was two-dimensional: Through his lens, she was a grasping and scandal-plagued woman; her exaggerated misdeeds and the intense feelings she engendered were all part of propelling his profitable narrative forward. His coverage of Trump, meanwhile, in this last campaign cycle, was notably soft, even admiring: Halperin once argued that the sexual-assault claims leveled at Trump would only help the now-president’s brand.
As for Thrush, who is accused of planting unwanted kisses on colleagues in barrooms, Remy Anne of Rantt notes a piece by Thrush that ran the day before the candidate forum in which Lauer tipped the scales in favor of the male candidate.
On September 6, 2016 Glenn Thrush wrote an article for Politico entitled “Five reasons Hillary could be blowing it.” The piece detailed the top five reasons, according to Thrush, as to why “Clinton let Trump back into the race.”
These points included the thoughts that Trump was getting his messaging together, Clinton was plagued with scandal, and—every woman’s favorite criticism—her personality sucked.
These guys were not simply a danger to the women they worked with; they endangered all of us, male and female alike. One need only look to the current occupant of the Oval Office to see the result. Oh, and that guy made a backhanded defense of Lauer this morning on Twitter, by way of jabbing Lauer’s boss—and the free press:
Wow, Matt Lauer was just fired from NBC for “inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace.” But when will the top executives at NBC & Comcast be fired for putting out so much Fake News. Check out Andy Lack’s past!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 29, 2017
So, fellas, as a journalist and an American, let me say, hey, thanks for the fascist you helped put in the White House. There’s nothing so sexist as a fascist. You must be proud!