A pattern is emerging in a series of high-profile controversies over inappropriate workplace conduct at national TV news companies: First a leading male anchor is fired, then his female colleagues are brought in to explain what happened to viewers.
NBC announced Wednesday it had terminated longtime “Today” anchor Matt Lauer after someone filed a complaint about inappropriate sexual conduct.
On that day’s show, his now-former co-anchor Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb, who co-anchors the show later in the morning, said they had only just received the news themselves and they described an internal memo sent out by network chairman Andy Lack with the decision.
Clasping Kotb’s hand, Guthrie said it was a “sad morning” and that she was “heartbroken” for Lauer, describing him as her “dear, dear friend and my partner.” She added she was also “heartbroken” for the woman who filed the complaint against him.
Kotb also expressed her affection for Lauer and said it’s “hard to reconcile what we are hearing with the man we know who walks in this building every single day.”
Just one week earlier, a similar episode played out on competing network CBS, where veteran TV journalist Charlie Rose was ousted as co-anchor of “This Morning.”
On the morning of Nov. 21, a Tuesday, his usual co-anchors Gayle King and Norah O’Donnell laid out the circumstances of his firing.
“To be very honest with you, I’m still trying to process all of this," King said of the allegations, which included claims Rose, now 75, walked around naked in his home in front of younger female colleagues. "I’m still trying to sort it out because this is not the man I knew but I’m also clearly on the side of the women who have been very hurt and very damaged by this."
"How do you wrap your brain around that?" she added. "I'm really grappling with that. That said, Charlie does not get a pass here. He doesn't get a pass from anyone in this room."
O’Donnell had a more solemn message. “This has to end," she said, reading from a teleprompter. "This is a moment that demands a frank and honest assessment about where we stand and more generally the safety of women. Let me be very clear. There is no excuse for this alleged behavior."
Over the course of a year, an avalanche of accusations related to sexual harassment and misconduct have rocked the media industry, touching almost every national news operation, including Fox News, which saw the downfall of its CEO, the late Roger Ailes, and its biggest star, Bill O’Reilly.
Matt Lauer has been terminated from NBC News. On Monday night, we received a detailed complaint from a colleague about inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace by Matt Lauer. As a result, we’ve decided to terminate his employment. pic.twitter.com/1A3UAZpvPb— TODAY (@TODAYshow) November 29, 2017
When O’Reilly’s 20-year tenure at Fox abruptly ended on April 19, following reports about multimillion dollar sexual harassment settlements, Dana Perino, who now hosts her own daytime program, anchored O’Reilly’s prime-time show to address the controversy.
"It is the end of an era at the Fox News Channel," she said. "As we mentioned earlier, Bill O'Reilly is leaving this chair and this network after more than 20 years. Bill has been the undisputed king of cable news and for good reason. He is an incredibly talented broadcaster who raised the bar for interviewers everywhere. He has also held his staff to exacting standards in his quest to put the best possible program on the air and they are great."
Ending the show, she added, O’Reilly’s viewers had "been loyal and we can't tell you how much that means to everyone on 'The Factor.’” She then read from a portion of a statement by the executives of Fox's parent company, which praised his talents.