Hoda Kotb, speaking on-air to Today Show co-anchor Savannah Guthrie this morning regarding the firing of Matt Lauer:
“I have known Matt for 15 years, and I have loved him as a friend and as a colleague, and… it’s hard to reconcile what we are hearing with the man who we know.”
As the co-host of NBC’s “Today,” Matt Lauer once gave a colleague a sex toy as a present. It included an explicit note about how he wanted to use it on her, which left her mortified.
On another day, he summoned a different female employee to his office, and then dropped his pants, showing her his penis. After the employee declined to do anything, visibly shaken, he reprimanded her for not engaging in a sexual act.
He would sometimes quiz female producers about who they’d slept with, offering to trade names. And he loved to engage in a crass quiz game with men and women in the office: “f—, marry, or kill,” in which he would identify the female co-hosts that he’d most like to sleep with.
I find it hard to believe that Kotb and Guthrie were wholly unaware of Lauer’s behaviors, or his attitudes toward women in general. (One had only to witness the way he treated Hilary Clinton last year to get a glimpse of it.) For Kotb and Guthrie to talk about how “beloved” Lauer is and how it’s “hard to reconcile what we are hearing with the man who we know” is perilously close to saying, “We don’t believe you” to the women Lauer abused.
I’ve heard this phrase, “not the man we know” before. A woman I once worked with endured months verbal abuse from an executive. She went to HR more than once, and was told, “That’s just not the man we know.” Others, including me, backed up her story, but we got the same brush-off.
What it amounts to is that men like these get away with their behavior for a long time, and often for their entire careers, because other people are willing to turn a blind eye toward it.