Another day, another prominent male public figure revealed to be a sexual predator.
This morning, NBC announced that it had fired Matt Lauer from the Today show for inappropriate sexual behavior toward a colleague. (Last week, Lauer’s talent booker for Today, Matt Zimmerman, was also fired for sexual harassment.) It was the conclusion of a 23-year run on the show, which ironically included a distasteful segment parodying workplace harassment in 2012. The downfall of Lauer (wrought, according to a Page Six Report, by a complaint stemming from the 2014 Sochi Olympics) came as a shock to his co-anchor Savannah Guthrie. But for many of us who have been paying attention to his behavior–on and off the air–over the years, it wasn’t a surprise at all.
(Alleged) Involvement In The Firing Of Ann Curry, 2012
Although we may never know precisely what went on between Lauer and Ann Curry in the lead-up to her ouster from Today in 2012, this in-depth report from New York Magazine offers plenty of food for thought, namely that he simply did not like her and was instrumental in her being let go. “The image of Matt Lauer trying to comfort her [as she announced her departure from the show on the air]—and of Curry turning away from his attempted kiss—has become a kind of monument to the real Matt Lauer, forensic evidence of his guilt,” journalist Joe Hagan wrote. Although there is no evidence of sexual harassment in Lauer’s conduct toward Curry, the entire incident dealt a blow to Lauer’s good-guy image. (It also led to a decline in Today‘s ratings.) Beyond exposing what appears to be a cold, careerist drive, it also set a precedent for a seeming lack of respect for women, which bore out in many interviews in the years that followed.
Offensive Innuendo And Victim-Shaming With Anne Hathaway, 2012
“Nice to see you–seen a lot of you lately,” Lauer said, greeting Anne Hathaway during her appearance on Today. The words sound innocuous enough—until it becomes clear what Lauer was referring to: an incident in which a paparazzo photographed the Les Miserables star as she exited a car while not wearing underwear. The resulting photos were widely circulated online. So Lauer wasn’t commenting on Hathaway’s busy promotional schedule, but rather making a lewd, invasive, inappropriate comment about the most private area of her body. “Wardrobe malfunction the other night,” he said, pressing on. “What’s the lesson learned from something like that?” There, he thrust the blame on Hathaway, rather than the photographer, as if any of it was even remotely her fault. Credit goes to Hathaway for classily withstanding this appalling line of questioning. “I’m sorry we live in a culture that commodifies the sexuality of unwilling participants,” she said, deftly steering the conversation back to Les Miserables.
Flirtation With A Teenage Olympic Skier Mikaela Shiffrin, 2014
Lauer’s interview with then-18-year-old Olympic skier Shiffrin is difficult to find online, but Conan O’Brien used some damning footage from it at the time in a segment entitled “Creepy Matt Lauer.” The key moment to watch for is Lauer’s languid, flirtatious sign-off at the end. It’s the equivalent of Friends star Matt LeBlanc’s suggestive “How you doing?” only much worse for happening on-air with an accomplished teenage woman.
Sexist Questioning of GM CEO Mary Barra, 2014
Lauer came under fire in 2014 after asking Barra whether she was able to effectively do her job at GM and be a good mother at the same time. The comment—familiar to many high-achieving women who are also parents—suggested Barra might be derelict in her duties as a mother by having such a demanding career. It’s a line of questioning rarely ever asked of powerful men, despite what Lauer claimed while attempting to defend himself against near-universal criticism of sexism. But Vox poked holes in Lauer’s claim that he would have asked a male CEO the same thing, presenting 10 previous interviews where he had the chance to ask such a question, but did not.
Aggressive Tone With Hillary Clinton, 2016
When Matt Lauer moderated a forum between the presidential candidates last fall, he was once again accused of sexism—and of being an embarrassment to journalism. Lauer’s questions toward Clinton focused on her email saga rather than her policies, and he repeatedly talked over and interrupted her, dripping with disdain. His tone was much less hostile when he questioned Donald Trump, and he even failed to correct the real estate mogul when he falsely claimed he had always been against the Iraq war. Overall, Lauer gave the impression of someone intimidated by one candidate while on a mission to rebuke the other–the one who was a woman. It was Clinton who he treated as the candidate who had to defend her right to be in contention for the White House, not the ex-reality TV star with multiple bankruptcies and no experience in public office.
Undermining Corey Feldman’s Crusade Against Pedophiles, 2017
The former child star appeared on Today after actor Anthony Rapp went public with claims that Kevin Spacey had sexually assaulted him when he was 14. Feldman has spoken out about Hollywood predation of child actors before, and he was on the show to promote his fundraising efforts for a feature film on the subject. “We didn’t get the names we were promised last time,” Lauer says at one point, referring to Feldman’s previous book that did not mention alleged predators by name. He then spent the rest of the interview undermining Feldman’s efforts to expose pedophiles–at a time when survivors are just beginning to find the courage to speak out.
UPDATE: While this post originally contained only six instances of Matt Lauer’s dirtbaggery, TMZ has since surfaced two new ones: Lauer getting caught making a lewd remark to Meredith Viera in 2006, and Katie Couric revealing in 2012 that Lauer “pinched my ass a lot.”