BUCK STOPS WHERE?
NBC Clears Executives of Responsibility for Matt Lauer’s Misconduct
An internal report released on Wednesday said that company executives were not aware of Lauer’s inappropriate workplace behavior.
NBC on Wednesday officially cleared the company’s leadership of responsibility for Matt Lauer’s inappropriate workplace conduct, reportedly finding that its executives were unaware of the former Today show anchor’s misconduct.
In an internal report, released to staff on Wednesday and obtained by The Daily Beast, the network said it had “found no evidence” that executives at NBC News, the Today show, or the company’s human resources department had received complaints about Lauer’s behavior before a complaint was filed in November 2017.
According to the report, Lauer was promptly fired after that complaint was filed. Several other complaints of Lauer’s prior conduct were reported in subsequent weeks.
“The investigation team found current and former NBC News and Today Show leadership, News HR, and others interviewed who were in positions of authority in the News Division to be credible in their denials of knowledge of Lauer’s inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace,” the report said.
The internal investigation was ordered by NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke in November following the accusations against Lauer, and was the result of interviews with 68 people. It concluded that although four complaints about Lauer’s inappropriate workplace conduct were credible, so were claims that executives and staff also were unaware of Lauer’s behavior.
Though some employees raised concerns about NBC’s workplace culture and HR reporting mechanisms, according to the report, the company did not have a systemic culture of harassment.
Investigators declared that it was “troubling” that no complaints were reported despite the widespread knowledge of Lauer’s overtures and “sexual banter in the workplace,” adding that there was unfamiliarity and “fear of retaliation” with the company’s HR reporting system.
According to internal investigators, Lauer’s “frequent” sexual banter “did not rise to the level of creating a hostile environment,” but “may have contributed” to some employees feeling uncomfortable.
But the report also said that “participants expressed many positive sentiments about their work environment,” and that “a significant majority of participants would feel comfortable going to News HR with a concern about inappropriate sexual behavior.”
“The investigation team does not believe that there is a current widespread or systematic pattern of behavior that violates Company policy or a current culture of harassment in the News Division, based on our interviews, the cultural assessment and our review of the nature and number of workplace complaints in the News Division,” the report said.
The report also pushed back on some previous public reporting about Lauer.
The investigation said that a button that Lauer had in his office that automatically closed the door was a “commonly available” in many executive offices and did not lock the door from the inside.
And though former co-host Ann Curry publicly said she had told a manager that a woman complained to her about Lauer’s conduct, the report said she declined to reveal who she told about her colleague’s behavior. Further, the report said that Today show leadership and NBC News denied ever speaking with Curry about the complaint.
In a separate note to staff on Wednesday, NBC Chairman Andy Lack laid out the network’s plans to prevent future harassment, noting several new ways for employees to report inappropriate workplace behavior.
“Like many of you, I am immensely proud of NBC News, its history, and the work we do,” Lack said. “But – stepping back from the investigation – that history also includes a time when people were not comfortable coming forward to voice complaints about repugnant behavior. That is not acceptable.
“We cannot change the past. What we can do is learn from it, and try to make it right. We have already begun to turn the page to establish a safer and more respectful environment.”