The former "Today Show" host seems to think nitpicking Ronan Farrow's book will relaunch his career
In a new opinion piece published in Mediaite, former Today Show host and alleged rapist Matt Lauer claims that Ronan Farrow abandoned journalistic integrity in pursuit of book sales.
Farrow's book Catch and Kill, which came out last October, details allegations of sexual misconduct against Matt Lauer in two of its nearly sixty chapters—the rest being devoted to Harvey Weinstein and other prominent sexual predators—and the particular challenges involved in reporting on these crimes.
While it was only a small section of the book, the addition of Brooke Nevils' rape allegation to the laundry list of sexual misconduct claims levelled against Lauer was national news last fall, and Lauer has apparently been working on a rebuttal ever since—though his efforts were stalled for months amid personal and then global crises. Earlier this week, however, he was finally given the opportunity he was waiting for when Farrow's reporting was called into question by New York Times' Media Columnist Ben Smith.
.@michaelluo has pointed out facts that contradict aspects of @benyt‘s column about my work in The New Yorker. A few additional thoughts:— Ronan Farrow (@Ronan Farrow) 1589822451.0
Much of Smith's criticism is based on claims of insufficient fact-checking, which Farrow has pushed back against but which seem—at least to some extent—to be a legitimate concern. It's entirely possible that Farrow, in pursuit of compelling and timely stories, neglected some of his journalistic obligation to corroborate the claims of the women he interviewed. Farrow, who was awarded a Pulitzer prize in 2018 for his work exposing Harvey Weinstein's history of sexually predatory behavior, may also have been motivated by the societal push to "believe women" and by his personal experience with the dismissal of his sister's allegations against their father, Woody Allen.
Whatever the case, it does seem that there's reason to call on both Farrow and the New Yorker—where he published many of his most provocative articles—to apply more rigorous standards of fact checking to this sort of explosive reporting. While Smith may himself be open to some serious criticism—and may be largely feeding into the backlash against the Me Too movement that has been motivated by a political interest in protecting Joe Biden's presidential candidacy—he raises some valid concerns. None of this, however, should be taken as a sign that Matt Lauer, echoing Smith's criticisms, has any ground to stand on.
"Deny, Attack, Reverse Victim and Offender."
Lauer's counterattack on Farrow nibbles at the edges of the misconduct Lauer has been accused of—cherry-picking individuals whom Farrow failed to reach out to in his reporting and deliberately ignoring the pattern of behavior that turned the world against him in 2017. The official reason for his termination from NBC was an inappropriate relationship with a colleague which Lauer insists was consensual. Lauer clings to this sanitized version of events as a shield against the most dramatic and upsetting accusations against him, painting the fact that his former employer has a vested interest in minimizing the misconduct within their organization as an "elaborate and false conspiracy."
Lauer goes on to dismiss the accusation that he once reportedly exposed himself to Melissa Lonner by noting that Lonner and her friend Ann Curry dislike him and NBC, neglecting the possibility that the dislike may have formed in response to his lewd behavior and NBC's protection of him. He also asserts that all of his encounters with Brooke Nevils were consensual, noting that "there was never a mention of assault or rape" when she filed a complaint against him or discussed their affair with her friends and that at various points after the alleged 2014 incident in Sochi, Russia, Nevils pursued sexual encounters with Lauer. Never mind the fact that it's common for victims of sexual assault to maintain a relationship with their attackers; Lauer isn't interested in that. His tactics are the familiar playbook laid out in a recent tweet from Nevils: "Deny, Attack, Reverse Victim and Offender."
DARVO: Deny, Attack, Reverse Victim and Offender— Brooke Nevils (@Brooke Nevils) 1589925201.0
At no point in Lauer's nearly-5,000 word piece does he acknowledge the larger pattern of predatory behavior these accusations fit into—for example, the time that he supposedly sent a sex toy to a female colleague with a note about how he wanted her to use it. Nor does he mention Katie Couric's assertion that he would frequently pinch her ass when they worked together. As for the button in his office that allowed him to remotely lock his door, he acknowledged it only long enough to dispel the "myth" that the button could lock women inside with him.
This last point gets at the larger issue. Lauer seems to think the button was harmless because it couldn't physically prevent anyone from leaving. He fails to see how sharing an intimate space with a powerful figure who then remotely shuts the door, ensuring privacy, could put someone in an uncomfortable position and undermine their sense of agency in the situation.
In 2006 divorce filings, Lauer's ex-wife, Annette Roque, claimed that Lauer was controlling in the case of even "the smallest decisions," yet today he still seems oblivious to the fact that his position at NBC gave him power to control and coerce others—claiming, for example, that he "had absolutely no authority" over Nevil's ex-boyfriend who also worked at NBC. As the highest paid host in broadcast news at the time—and the man widely credited with getting others fired—it's a laughable assertion, even if he spent three hours on the phone with said ex-boyfriend in order to get a statement of agreement.
A Preternatural Lack of Self-Awareness
The only conclusion that can be drawn from the exhausting experience of reading Lauer's lengthy attack on Ronan Farrow is that Lauer doesn't understand any of this. Either deliberately or as a result of some preternatural lack of self-awareness, Matt Lauer has managed to misunderstand the power dynamics he used to great effect at NBC, as well as the entire concept of consent. His confusion is evident even in uncomfortable interactions with women that were broadcast on live TV. His notorious interviews with Anne Hathaway and Sandra Bullock are perhaps the most memorable examples of a man who objectifies women so instinctively that he couldn't possibly be trusted to assess consent. He may wholeheartedly believe that he did nothing wrong with Brooke Nevils in Sochi, but that has no bearing on the reality of whether he raped her.
8 Times Matt Lauer Acted Totally Inappropriate On TV www.youtube.com
Lauer closes his Mediaite piece with an absurd demonstration of his lack of self-awareness, setting himself up for the comeback he's been plotting since 2018, saying, "I will continue to ask questions and seek answers, because ironically, I can thank Ronan for at least one thing. He has reminded me how it feels to do the work I love." He seems to think that his career at NBC was based on a real talent for journalism and that talent will naturally have won over readers by the end of his piece—that this will be the jumping-off point for his return to respectability. But the reality is that Lauer's immense success was built on little more than a pleasant speaking voice and an overweening confidence that can be mistaken for charm.
In short, while Ronan Farrow may have room to improve as a journalist, Matt Lauer has no basis for criticizing him. He is currently latching onto the backlash against Tara Reade and the Me Too movement to sow doubt about his own accusers and attempt to revive a career that was dead and buried long before he was accused of rape. While it's an attempt that's likely to fail—because no one other than Lauer really wants him to make a comeback—he will no doubt keep trying. He doesn't seem to understand that no means no...
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