NBC says no culture of harassment in its news division

Sergio Cunningham
May 11, 2018

The probe found no culture of sexual harassment in NBC's news division, now that Lauer is gone.

The findings were based on interviews with 70 current and former employees, the company said. Matt Lauer was able to prey on women within NBC for years because he was seen as a star and untouchable.

Ann Curry has stated in the press that, in 2012, a woman came to her claiming that Lauer had sexually harassed her and that Curry then told management at the time that they should be concerned about Lauer's behavior toward women.

In Wednesday's report, NBC confirmed that four women had complained about Lauer but the network said their complaints were not given to leadership until November.

The seven-page document, titled "NBC News Workplace Investigation", which covers the network's news division as well as MSNBC, was commissioned by Steve Burke, CEO of NBCU; on November 30 of a year ago, he instructed NBCU General Counsel Kim Harris to, as the document puts it, "assemble and supervise a team of experienced lawyers and HR professionals from outside the News Division" to dig into the Lauer scandal, to attempt to uncover other incidents of "inappropriate workplace behavior" and to determine if "employees in the News Division are comfortable reporting concerns about workplace behavior, and if not, why not".

"It takes all 2,145 of us together, having each other's backs, to make this goal a reality that starts now", he wrote. He offered a seven-point plan for "a safer and more respectful environment", including more training for managers, mandatory workplace training, and "constant vigilance, monitoring and measuring progress". But Curry specifically named Lauer as a person of concern. She alleged in an internal interview a week later that Lauer had "engaged in inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace".

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The report discussed reasons why some at NBC are reluctant to come forward with complaints - including glass-walled Human Resources offices that made them question whether their concerns would be kept quiet. He was sacked that day. Three additional women subsequently made complaints about Lauer.

Universal was criticized for turning to its general counsel, Kim Harris, to conduct the investigation and not allow outsiders to examine the culture. The team also went through text messages on Lauer's company-issued phone, complaints to company helplines, legal and HR records and other documents.

The anchor, who worked with the network for 23 years, was sacked last November based on allegations of sexual harassment and "sexually inappropriate behavior".

As for Lauer's behavior, according to the report, the newsman "frequently engaged in sexual banter or joking in open work environments with other employees present or in a position to overhear his comments", though the conduct "did not rise to the level of creating a hostile work environment, and no witnesses described it as such". She reported this interaction to her manager, who decided that the woman would no longer be assigned to projects that required her to travel with Lauer. But managers said they had never had such a conversation with her.

Investigators interviewed 68 employees in the news division, including on-air talent and producers. "But that history also includes a time when people were not comfortable coming forward to voice complaints about repugnant behavior". "Most witnesses interviewed stated that they had heard or read rumors about Lauer's personal life, including tabloid stories about the troubled state of his marriage and the possibility of extramarital affairs, but those witnesses believed, with limited exceptions, that the rumored extramarital affairs were with women outside of the company". "I told management they had a problem and they needed to keep an eye on him and how he deals with women", she said. To critics, the button seemed an alarmingly useful tool for predatory behavior, but NBC said it is "a commonly available feature in executive offices" and does not lock the door from the inside.

Summary: NBC News said that no high-level executives were aware of Matt Lauer's impropriety until last November.

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