In a society plagued with “fake news,” we’ve slowly become accustomed to spotlighting inherent bias and corruption in the news media machine. Fox News, lauded by conservatives and loathed by liberals, has often been the central whipping boy for peddling lies and exaggerations. But as much as I hate to admit it, NBC News might be the dirty donkey pen to Fox’s filthy elephant cage.
Wednesday morning, Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb announced that NBC’s crown jewel, The Today Show, had fired Matt Lauer overnight for alleged sexual misconduct. The news of Lauer, a central figure on the show for two decades, leaving was potentially one of the biggest shocks of this winter of discontent men have found themselves in. Lauer was in our living rooms every morning as a part of what The Today Show aggressively markets as one big American family.
Guthrie, Lauer’s co-host, was both tearful and firm, delivering perhaps the most precise performance yet of the ballet female colleagues of accused men are being asked to dance by employers. They must walk a line of condemning sexual abuse, while also lamenting the loss of “a trusted friend.” Guthrie could only keep Lauer’s reputation afloat for so long though, as the Variety piece revealed a Weinstein-esque log of years of abuse against women at NBC. Beyond his grotesque behavior, such as using a button installed beneath his desk to lock the door so he could expose himself to women knowing that no one could interrupt, what’s most disturbing is the allegation that NBC protected Lauer for years.
It doesn’t take much sifting to see that NBC is a network benefitting from a reputation of liberal morality, but rarely upholding it. Just look at the network’s relationship with our current president. Although he wasn’t promoting white nationalism and provoking nuclear war at the time, while he was on NBC’s The Apprentice he was still, allegedly, sexually assaulting women. And even if you put your rose-colored glasses on and assume no one at the network was aware of his sexual misconduct, NBC was in possession of the now-infamous “Grab ‘em by the pussy” Access Hollywood tape during the election, and made the decision to withhold it. It wasn’t until a whistleblowing employee leaked it that the public found out just how crude its future president was in regards to women’s bodies. It should be noted that over a year later, the president denies that it is his voice on the tape, but it is very obvious that—like most of what queefs out of his administration’s mouthpieces—it’s a bold lie.
Even more strictly entertaining programs like SNL and The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, meant to distract from and poke fun at the news, have been marred by criticism for courting conservatives. SNL, maybe the most universally popular sketch comedy show of all time, had to be pressured by critics to finally hire the first black female cast member in five years, Sasheer Zamata.
In terms of Fallon, there was a considerable outcry during the campaign about the way he normalized Trump during his appearance on The Tonight Show. He skipped out on grilling Trump about his racist remarks, his attitude toward women, his complete misunderstanding of U.S. government, or any of the myriad topics that would have been illuminating for voters to watch. Not only did Fallon fumble the rare opportunity to have Trump in a legitimate hot seat, but he also jovially rough-housed with the then-candidate like they were cousins in the backyard on Thanksgiving, asking if he could ruffle his hair to prove his signature, vomit-inducing mop was real. The end result left Fallon looking like a network puppet, and Trump looking like a good sport.
Ultimately NBC’s biggest error, however, was giving The Tonight Show to Fallon in the first place, when it was very obvious during Jay Leno’s departure from the show that the late night legacy was long overdue to be passed on to a woman. Despite that oversight, NBC did hire one important woman, Megyn Kelly, who could be deemed the Taylor Swift of news. Kelly made a name for herself by being the sanest person in the room at Fox News, which isn’t saying much. Despite being able to distinguish herself from her colleagues with her competence, she still rose to fame exploiting racist issues. And who was there for dog-whistling Kelly when she left Fox News after accusing Bill O’Riley of sexual misconduct? NBC, of course. Similiarly, NBC gave Mark Halperin a job after he left ABC, where he was known for being sexually predatory toward female staffers.
To be clear, NBC is not inherently the problem. It’s not so much the network as it is the men in power who’ve been at helm the network for decades. Thanks to the current season of victims coming forward about abuse, the white noise in our brains encouraging complacency is finally beginning to clear.