A Fall Without Grace
Within one week’s time, two veteran journalists have lost their jobs over sexual harassment claims – first, CBS This Morning’s Charlie Rose, and, more recently, The Today Show’s Matt Lauer. After reporting on similar allegations themselves when the Weinstein scandal broke nearly two months ago, these two journalists have become the lead story.
The Today Show, which for 99 consecutive weeks has been the number one morning show among viewers aged 25-54, has been my go-to for nearly 20 years. And while this isn’t the first time Lauer has faced controversy, it is the time that will undoubtedly kill his career. When Lauer was called out in 2013 for disingenuous behavior amidst Ann Curry’s departure, I wasn’t sure he could bounce back. But I was wrong – The Today Show successfully carried on with him at the helm. But this isn’t 2013, and these allegations are more than just a little snark and side-eye. Lauer is done, as is Weinstein, Spacey, and the list goes on.
For their part, I thought The Today Show hosts handled the Lauer announcement with grace and sensitivity. The statement read by Savannah Guthrie at the opening of the newscast was carefully crafted by NBC executives, and the personal commentary she shared came from the heart.
Lauer released his own statement this morning, which will fall on many deaf ears, but from a PR perspective hit the right notes. Proactively issuing a statement that addresses the truthfulness of the allegations kills the opportunity for speculation and allows Lauer a tiny bit of control in the news cycle. He has made his statement, and now it’s time to disappear – indefinitely – and figure out where he goes from here.
In the wake of the cultural shift we’re experiencing, I doubt Lauer’s name will be the last we’ll hear along with the words “sexual harassment.” But, in my opinion, the quickest way to minimize the damage is to admit to your wrongdoings (think Louis C.K. and Lauer) and figure out a way to lead a life outside of the public eye.