The Slatest

What Is Wrong With NBC?

Clockwise from top left: the Access Hollywood tape, Harvey Weinstein, Donald Trump’s appearance on the Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon, and Matt Lauer.

Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for National Geographic; Justin Sullivan/Getty Images; NBC.

When Americans complain about TV networks, we usually target CNN (for being simplistic and ridiculous or for being too liberal/“fake news”) or Fox News (for being so relentlessly Fox News–like). Recent events, though, provide further evidence that NBC has been getting off easy.

1. The network fired Today host Matt Lauer on Monday. But reports surrounding his dismissal indicate that Lauer is accused of having sexually harassed and abused colleagues for years—even, in one horrifying case, having allegedly used his office to sexually assault a woman who lost consciousness and had to receive medical treatment. Vanity Fair reports that NBC staffers are “incredulous that NBC’s top brass was not aware of Lauer’s behavior with women” before one alleged victim filed a complaint this week.

2. NBC kept Donald Trump on The Apprentice even as he inserted himself into national politics by making dumb, unsubstantiated claims about Barack Obama’s birth certificate, lending him and his stupid ideas credibility and putting him in the homes of millions of American voters. Reports in other outlets, moreover, say Trump sexually harassed colleagues on the set of the show. “Eight former crew members recalled that he repeatedly made lewd comments about a camerawoman he said had a nice rear, comparing her beauty to that of his daughter, Ivanka,” the Associated Press wrote, for instance. Apprentice producer and current NBC collaborator Mark Burnett, along with the studio MGM, control the show’s unused footage; they have claimed vaguely that “various contractual and legal requirements” prohibit them from releasing it. But even if that’s true, Burnett and other NBC execs have never discussed Trump’s Apprentice behavior on the record, nor has the network’s news arm done significant original reporting on the subject despite its inside connection to the show’s staffers. (There have even been reports—denied by Burnett—that his team has actively instructed individuals who worked on The Apprentice not to discuss Trump with the press.)

3. NBC News got the footage of Trump telling Billy Bush that he often “grab[bed]” women “by the pussy” from Access Hollywood, an NBC show. But it delayed running its report on that footage for so long that someone inside the network apparently leaked it to the Washington Post, which published it first.

4. The network compounded its failure to do tough reporting by giving Trump’s candidacy fluffy coverage on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, featuring him as a Saturday Night Live host, and booking him on the Tonight Show, where Jimmy Fallon infamously gave his hair a playful, affectionate tousle just months before the 2016 election. (Morning Joe host Joe Scarborough is now feuding with Trump and just said that he heard during the 2016 campaign that Trump is suffering from the “early stages of dementia.” Good job stting on that potentially history-altering information until nearly 13 months after the election, NBC/Joe!)

5. Until recently, NBC employed political pundit Mark Halperin, who like Trump and Lauer also allegedly has an extensive history of sexually inappropriate workplace behavior. (The public allegations against Halperin involve incidents that occurred prior to his employment at NBC.)

6. NBC’s Ronan Farrow worked for nearly a year on a devastating story about Harvey Weinstein’s alleged sexually abusive behavior—but NBC, for reasons that are largely still unknown, decided not to run it. So he took it to the New Yorker, which has published the allegations Farrow uncovered and multiple bombshell follow-ups about Weinstein’s apparent attempts to intimidate his victims.

Here we have a network and its news operation that could have changed the course of two of the biggest stories of the past two years: Trump and sexual assault. Instead it suppressed news in a way that helped bad actors keep or obtain power. And I haven’t even mentioned that its most famous anchor never came fully clean about having made up a war story. What is NBC doing?