The Matt Lauer NBC Scandal from a PR Perspective

By: Megan Lantz

The firing of NBC Today Show host Matt Lauer occurred on the morning of Wednesday, November 29th, roaring controversy worldwide. After Lauer was allegedly accused of sexual harassment, NBC fired the two-decade long host. Savanna Guthrie and Hoda Gotb announced the firing just hours after they themselves had been told the news of the allegation. The reporters stated that:

“On Monday night, we received a detailed complaint from a colleague about inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace by Matt Lauer… While it is the first complaint about his behavior in the over twenty years he’s been at NBC news, we were also presented with reason to believe this may not have been an isolated incident.”

Examining the announcement of this news from a PR perspective, it is obvious that the choice to tell Guthrie and Gotb only hours before the announcement was a poor decision made on the part of NBC. I think, because of the timing, the reporters were still in shock and not able to focus on the severity of the issue of the sexual harassment committed by Matt Lauer. Instead, they focused more on the devastation and sadness they felt towards their newly unemployed friend. With this being said, NBC had no other choice to make but to release the statement of his firing the way they did. If NBC waited to announce Lauer’s firing, the organization would have received mass amounts of scrutiny, and even more allegations that the company has been covering up these sexual harassment cases for years. With the company already receiving scrutiny and accusations about knowing and covering up sexual harassment claims in the past, it is important to discuss an interview between Katie Couric and Andy Cohen from 2012. In the interview, Couric states that Lauer “pinches me on the ass a lot”. One question this statement from Couric raises for me, and many others, is why didn’t NBC look into Lauer in 2012 after this allegation by Couric was stated? I think it goes without saying that pinching a coworker on the butt is not appropriate in the workplace, so why was nothing done about it after Couric stated the incident in a public interview? This neglect by NBC of not looking into Lauer after Couric’s claim is one of the main reasons people are questioning if NBC has not been truthful in the past, and if the company possibly covered up past accusations towards Lauer.

Twenty-four hours after the announcement of Lauer’s firing, the former host of NBC’s Today Show finally released a statement stating:

“There are no words to express my sorrow and regret for the pain I have caused others by words and actions. To the people I have hurt, I am truly sorry. As I am writing this I am realizing the depth of the damage and disappointment I have left behind at home and at NBC. Some of what is being said about me is untrue or mischaracterized, but there is enough truth in these stories to make me feel embarrassed and ashamed.”

From a PR perspective, this public apology from Lauer was necessary to provide even a minimal chance of him ever acquiring a job in the field again, and for any possibility of his family, his past coworkers at NBC, and the general public to forgive him.

As of Thursday, November 30th, six allegations against Lauer had been released. I believe others will surface as more people gain the confidence to share their stories and report their own incidents with Lauer. NBC must continue to share this news with the public, just as other news organizations will, if they want to diminish the idea that they may have covered up any past allegations.

References:

“Matt Lauer has been terminated from NBC News.” TODAY.com, CNBC, 29 Nov. 2017, http://www.today.com/video/matt-lauer-has-been-terminated-from-nbc-news-1105840707690.

“Matt Lauer: ‘There are no words to express my sorrow and regret’.” TODAY.com, CNBC, 30 Nov. 2017, http://www.today.com/video/matt-lauer-there-are-no-words-to-express-my-sorrow-and-regret-1106709059921.

Staff, TMZ. “Katie Couric in 2012 said Matt Lauer Pinched Me on the Ass a Lot.” TMZ, TMZ.com, 29 Nov. 2017, http://www.tmz.com/2017/11/29/katie-couric-today-show-matt-lauer-sexual-harassment-allegations/.

 

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