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  • Matt Lauer is the fourth NBCUniversal employee to be publicly named for sexual misconduct in recent weeks

    Matt Lauer's misogyny was no secret

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Early this morning, a now-familiar pattern of events unfolded: A prominent media figure was named as a reported perpetrator of sexual misconduct and reporters from other outlets quickly confirmed they’d been working on stories about it. This time it was NBC’s Matt Lauer, and no one seemed surprised -- particularly because the network has been very publicly struggling to adequately address sexual harassment and misogyny for over a year now.

    On November 29, Today co-host Savannah Guthrie, seated next to colleague Hoda Kotb, announced that NBC had terminated Lauer after receiving a “detailed complaint about inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace.” The statement from NBC News chairman Andy Lack, from which Guthrie read on-air, also stated that the network had reason to believe the report was not an isolated incident.

    Almost immediately, several reporters confirmed that they’d been working on investigations of Lauer or were aware of investigations and that NBC knew about the coming stories as well. At least one reporter, Yashar Ali, said he’d spoken with women privately about Lauer even before The New York Times published its first story on reports of harassment and assault by Harvey Weinstein in early October.

    Lauer’s misogyny was certainly no secret, either -- he had publicly berated women, victim-blamed, and reinforced sexist stereotypes in interviews before. In 2012, when former co-host Ann Curry was reportedly pushed out of the network, Lauer and the “boys’ club atmosphere” at Today were implicated.

    And in September, Lauer interviewed serial sexual predator Bill O’Reilly, giving him space to attack a woman who had reported him for harassment and deny knowledge about the multiple settlements he’d reached for misconduct. NBC’s decision to give Lauer and O’Reilly an 8 a.m. slot to broadcast such an insulting conversation to more than 4 million people -- predominantly women, who are likely to have themselves experienced workplace sexual harassment -- was still far from the first time NBC has struggled to send the right message on sexual misconduct.

    Lauer is the fourth NBCUniversal employee to be publicly named for sexual misconduct -- in the case of Lauer, reported assault -- since the Weinstein reports. Earlier in November, Variety wrote that Matt Zimmerman, the senior vice president of booking for NBC News who oversaw the department that likely invited O’Reilly to appear on Today, had been fired following reports he’d “engaged in inappropriate conduct with more than one woman at NBCU.”

    On October 26, two different NBCUniversal employees were publicly reported for workplace sexual harassment: Mark Halperin and Ken Baker. Baker, a correspondent for the NBC-owned E! News, is currently off the air pending an internal investigation into multiple reports of inappropriate text messages and an unwanted kiss. Halperin, who was an MSNBC contributor and NBC News analyst, was fired following a flood of reports detailing serial sexual harassment and assault while he worked at ABC News.  

    NBC has also notoriously maintained silence on several reports related to harassment and assault by powerful men outside of its offices. Freelance NBC News correspondent Ronan Farrow publicly called out his employer for passing on his months-long investigation into multiple reports of harassment and assault by Weinstein; the piece eventually ran in The New Yorker.

    Last fall, the network sat on the Access Hollywood footage depicting President Donald Trump bragging about committing sexual assault and was eventually scooped by another outlet. It subsequently waffled on firing its own employee, Billy Bush, for his participation in the damning exchange.

    NBC is now among the list of media outlets that must grapple with reporting on sexual misconduct by its own employees. Addressing the reports against Lauer -- which seem likely to grow in number -- and the behavior he exhibited behind-the-scenes at NBC for decades gives the network an opportunity to change its course. It remains to be seen if NBC will take this chance to begin sending better messages to its employees and viewers about who and what it will value and protect.

  • New Study: Executives Break Promises To Improve Diversity Following Media Mergers

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Buzzfeed News highlighted a Columbia University study that found that "Media company mergers rarely result in a significant boost in representation for Latinos on or off screen, despite promises from studio executives to increase diversity."

    Buzzfeed's report echoes prominent advocates for the Hispanic community who have previously underscored the importance of improving the representation of Latinos in the media. During a Media Matters-sponsored panel on September 17, 2015, Voto Latino's Maria Teresa Kumar pointed out that, although Latinos "are the second-largest demographic group of Americans," the policies, issues and opinions of this community "are completely missed from mainstream." National Council of La Raza's Janet Murguía added that media coverage of Latino issues often presents "a very shallow view of what the Latino voter looks like." The underrepresentation of Latinos in media is reflected across the board, including in government -- according to NPR's Latino USA, "Latinos make up 17 percent of the population of the country but only one percent of its elected officials."

    Buzzfeed News' Adolfo Flores reported on January 15 that data from Columbia University's study showed "no significant increase in diversity behind the camera" after Comcast and NBCUniversal merged in 2011. The study also found that the percent of Latino senior executives at Comcast and NBCUniversal increased from zero to 3.1 percent, but that "only one [executive] held a senior position outside of Telemundo," the Spanish-language network owned by NBCUniversal. On-screen representation improved, but the "slight increase ... was accompanied by a significant rise in Latino stereotypes." Flores noted that the study examined all media mergers from 2008 to 2015, but focused on the Comcast-NBCUniversal merger "because it was the largets and well documented":

    Media company mergers rarely result in a significant boost in representation for Latinos on or off screen, despite promises from studio executives to increase diversity, new research has found

    The report -- The Latino Disconnect: The Impact of Media Mergers on Latino Consumers and Representation -- was provided to BuzzFeed News ahead of publication and analyzed the relationship between media mergers and Latinos from 2008 to 2015.

    Researchers at Columbia University's Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race found there was no significant increase in diversity behind the camera after the 2011 Comcast-NBCUniversal merger, despite a pledge to increase Latino representation in programming.

    "In general, we found that the increase in representation after the merger was very minimal and really only happens in front of the camera, which makes sense because it's the most visible," said Frances Negrón-Muntaner, the study's lead researcher.

    Researchers looked at all mergers after 2008, but focused on the one between Comcast-NBCUniversal because it was the largest and well documented.

    After the Comcast-NBCUniversal merger and through 2015, Latinos made up less than 7% of behind-the-camera talent across all categories on the network's top 10 shows, national news programs, and films. It also found that while the percentage of Latino directors increased on average 0.8% after the merger, the percentage of producers and writers decreased by 1.1% and 1.2%. Executive produce[r]s also declined by 0.4%.


    The average number of all Latino actors on television increased from 6.6% before the merger to 7.3% afterward. The slight increase, the study states, was accompanied by a significant rise in Latino stereotypes on NBCUniversal. Latinos who appeared as maids, janitors, inmates, and police officers in NBC's top 10 scripted television shows nearly tripled from 2008 to 2014.


    "Despite the fact that the majority of Latinos are U.S.-born and English-dominant," researchers wrote, "the percentage of Latino executives remained extremely low in the company's non-Spanish language media sector."


    Researchers recommended that media companies develop plans to diversify leadership and creative positions and hire experienced Latinos behind the camera who can help writers avoid stereotypes.

    UPDATE: Felix Sanchez, Executive Director and Co-Founder of The National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts told Media Matters in a statement:

    "This report is a cautionary tale that media mergers can usurp progress for minority communities. We have to follow the adage of trusting but verifying commitments made by companies before they merged. Given the findings of this study, we can conclude that not all key promises made have come to fruition."

  • National Hispanic Leadership Agenda Members Call For Saturday Night Live To Drop Trump

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    The National Hispanic Leadership Agenda -- a coalition of 40 leading national and regional Hispanic organizations -- is calling for NBC Universal to revoke Donald Trump's invitation to host Saturday Night Live.

    The National Hispanic Leadership Agenda (NHLA) is condemning the NBC network after it announced that Donald Trump is scheduled to host Saturday Night Live on November 7. The NHLA previously praised the network when they cut all business ties with Trump following his comments about immigrants, explaining that Trump's "derogatory statements" were antithetical to the network's values.

    In an October 15 letter sent to Stephen Burke, NBC Universal's CEO, and Lorne Michaels, Saturday Night Live's executive producer, the NHLA criticized the network for giving the GOP presidential candidate a platform, which in their opinion would "legitimize and validate his anti-Latino comments," and denounced the show's lackluster track record with Latino representation: in 41 seasons, the show has only cast 2 Latinos and zero Latinas:

    NHLA is flabbergasted that Saturday Night Live (SNL) has invited Donald Trump to host the November 7, 2015 show. 

    Donald Trump has yet to apologize for his bigoted comments about Mexican immigrants. Allowing Trump to host SNL will legitimize and validate his anti-Latino comments. NHLA had praised NBCUniversal, when it severed its ties with Donald Trump. We are appalled that you would enable Trump's hateful speech for nothing less than a ratings ploy and ask that you rescind the SNL invitation. 

    How can SNL justify casting zero Latinas over 41 seasons and only 2 Latinos over the same period, while promoting Trump's divisive speech toward Latinos? U.S. Latinos represent more than half (56%) of net population growth from 2000 to 2010 and are projected to contribute 100 percent of the population growth between the ages of 18-49, key demographics for television networks. On one hand, Comcast is reaching out to Latino viewers on its English language platforms and on Telemundo, its Spanish-language network, while it uses the other hand to face slap us with this unconscionable invitation to Trump. It is unconscionable that a major U.S. corporation-- who needs Latino viewers--is acting so clueless.

  • Hannity Defends Donald Trump's Incendiary Comments After NBC Announces Intentions To Sever Business Ties

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    Television and radio host Sean Hannity defended GOP presidential hopeful Donald Trump, who faced widespread backlash by media outlets following comments made during a speech where he called Mexican immigrants "rapists" and "murderers." Hannity agreed with Trump arguing that immigrants wouldn't leave their home countries if they were successful.

    On June 16, Trump announced that he was running for the Republican nomination for president. During his speech, Trump railed against Mexican immigration, claiming that the "U.S. has become a dumping ground for everybody else's problems," and referred to people coming across the southern border as "rapists" and criminals:

    When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best. They're not sending you. They're not sending you. They're sending people that have lots of problems, and they're bringing those problems with us. They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.

    Trump faced widespread outrage following his incendiary remarks. In a June 25 press release, Univision announced their intention to cut ties with Trump and drop Trump's Miss Universe pageant, in response to his "insulting remarks" about Latino immigrants. And in a June 29 statement released by NBC, the company expressed its intentions to no longer air Trump's Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants and to exclude him from participating in NBC's reality-show The Apprentice, because of his "derogatory statements" regarding immigrants.

    But on the June 29 edition of his radio show, Sean Hannity defended Trump's incendiary rhetoric. After highlighting NBC's announcement that they will be cutting ties with Trump, Hannity asserted that Trump was correct, immigrants coming to the U.S. are criminals, and argued that they would not be leaving their country if they were successful (emphasis added):

    HANNITY: We've got a problem in this country. If he [Trump] can make that statement and CNN refers to it as "racially-tinged," because [inaudible...] could play this on TV. Floor to ceiling drugs confiscated by people crossing our southern border. You want to talk about crime? Well what do you think -- who's coming from Latin America and Mexico? Are they rich, successful Mexicans, Nicaraguans, El Salvador residents? No! Why would they leave if they're so successful? It's people who have not had opportunity in Mexico and so they will raise all this money and give it to these human traffickers, human traffickers take full advantage of them, take every penny they've got and then maybe get them across the border in a perilous journey which some people don't make it. Now if we really care about our fellow human beings, we owe it to them not to put that -- sort of like a sign up that says "Take a risk you can try and come across because we're gonna make it easy for you" and it turns out not to be so easy. But if we had a fence, if we wanted to secure the border, it wouldn't be a problem. So when Trump says, "are they sending their best, their brightest?" In other words, if you have a pool of people, if we opened up America's borders, and who would apply to come to America? We probably would have our choice of doctors, and lawyers, and computer programmers, everybody wants to come to America. You know that's a great thing, we're not building a fence to keep people in, we're building a fence to prevent people from coming in because the world would flood here, which they've been doing.

  • Will NBC's Financial Interests Bias Its Coverage Of Russia's Anti-Gay Olympic Controversy?

    Blog ››› ››› CARLOS MAZA

    NBC Universal has pledged to report on the impact of Russia's draconian new anti-gay laws during its exclusive coverage of the 2014 Winter Olympics, but its financial stake in maintaining a positive relationship with the International Olympics Commission (IOC) raises questions about the network's ability to be objective in its reporting.

    NBC has faced increasing pressure to report on Russia's harsh anti-gay laws - including a measure that bans vaguely defined pro-gay "propaganda" - during its coverage of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi this February. Despite assurances from the IOC, Russian officials have warned that the law will be enforced against Olympians and visitors who display or demonstrate support for LGBT equality during the games.

    Mark Lazarus, chairman of the NBC Sports Group, has stated that NBC will "acknowledge" the law in its coverage if it affects the Olympic Games in any way, saying, "If it is still their law and it is impacting any part of the Olympic Games, we will make sure that we acknowledge it and recognize it."

    But NBC's ability to objectively cover the Olympic controversy is potentially threatened by the network's own financial interests. As Time magazine reporter Sean Gregory noted, NBC paid the IOC more than $4 billion for television rights to the Sochi Olympics, as well as rights to the 2016, 2018, and 2020 Olympics. The hefty price tag demonstrates how valuable NBC considers its exclusive access to the Olympic Games to be, an agreement which is granted by the IOC directly.

    NBC's close relationship with the IOC is likely to become problematic as the IOC begins to take its own precautions to crack down on pro-gay "propaganda."

  • REPORT: NBC News' Olympic Coverage Ignores Controversy Over Russia's Anti-Gay Law


    NBC Sports has pledged to expose Russia's anti-gay "propaganda" law during its exclusive coverage of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. Since the law's passage on June 10, however, NBC's news programming has almost completely ignored the controversy surrounding the measure, raising concerns about their willingness to report on the law during the event next February.

  • Fox News' love/hate relationship with its gay "friends"

    Blog ››› ››› KARL FRISCH

    It's no secret that Fox News doesn't live up to its "fair and balanced" slogan, especially when one considers its coverage of the LGBT community. In fact, much of its coverage is openly antagonistic and downright homophobic. On issue after issue of importance, the network, its hosts, anchors, contributors, and guests offer up lies, misinformation, and right-wing spin that only further stigmatizes the gay and lesbian community.

    The worst examples of Fox News coverage on LGBT issues can be found after the jump.

    A review of Fox News' employment practices however, reveals a network at odds with its own homophobic public image. The dichotomy reminds me a bit of the recently outed state legislator with the staunchly anti-gay voting record.

    Republican California State Senator Roy Ashburn was arrested for driving under the influence after reportedly leaving a Sacramento gay bar with an unidentified male passenger. Several days after circumstances surrounding his arrest and personal life spread in the media, Ashburn announced that he was gay and that he would continue to vote against the LGBT community because that's what the constituents from his conservative district would want.

    Perhaps Fox News really is taking a page from Ashburn. Just as the California legislator has quietly acknowledged the fact that he's a gay man, News Corp. (and by extension Fox News) has quietly been offering workplace protections and benefits to its gay and lesbian employees.

    According to an examination of the Human Rights Campaign's (HRC) employer database, News Corp. (Fox News' parent company) has had a policy protecting employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation since at least 2005 and has offered health care benefits to same-sex partners since at least 1999. Time Warner (CNN's parent company) and General Electric (NBC/MSNBC's parent company) offer not only these basic protections to gay and lesbian employees, they appear to go even further.

    The HRC's Corporate Equality Index rates Time Warner and General Electric with 100 percent and 80 percent, respectively, while News Corp. has yet to complete the survey that HRC uses to establish its index. News Corp. would give us a better understanding of how it treats LGBT employees on a variety of other important issues by completing the survey, but the media company does deserve credit for at least offering some very basic protections and benefits for gay and lesbian employees.

    Lack of a Corporate Equality Index rating notwithstanding, News Corp. has taken its support for LGBT employees a step further by sponsoring the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association (NLGJA) which describes itself on its website as "an organization of journalists, media professionals, educators and students working from within the news industry to foster fair and accurate coverage of LGBT issues." In fact, the program from the organization's annual conference last fall in Montréal included an ad from News Corp. stating: "The networks of Fox News honor NLGJA for its commitment to fair and balanced reporting. From your friends at Fox News Channel, Fox Business, News Corporation."

    Reached for comment over email, NLGJA managing director Michael Tune said, "We try to have as expansive a network as possible in order to reach into every newsroom to accomplish our mission. News Corp. is a major employer of journalists nationwide, and NLGJA has had a very open and supportive dialog with them over the years regarding fair and accurate coverage of the LGBT community."

    Tune added, "NLGJA's Rapid Response Task Force was created to respond to coverage of the LGBT community that is not fair and accurate. When we reach out to a news provider, it is often with the help of our member employees or other contacts within a company." He continued, "Often the relationship we have built with a company through its support of NLGJA makes it easier to work together."

    I sought out Fox News' Brian Lewis, executive vice president of corporate communications, and Irena Briganti, senior vice president of media relations, last week for comment on the conflict between the network's public posturing against LGBT equality and its support for LGBT employees, but I've not yet received a response.

    Just as Sen. Ashburn plans to continue his history of voting against the LGBT community to appease the homophobic conservative district he serves, News Corp. (and by extension Fox News) shows no signs of pulling back on the homophobic red meat it has fed its public -- the conservative audience that drives its ratings.

    That ultimately is what's truly sad about News Corp.'s relationship with its LGBT "friends." The media company gives its employees decent protections and benefits while making the lives of the very same employees more difficult in the long-run by broadcasting homophobia and misinformation that harden anti-LGBT views and slow the movement for full equality under the law.

  • NBC Universal's "eco-friendly" programming examined by WSJ -- What about its sister company, Fox News?

    Blog ››› ››› KARL FRISCH

    As an avid viewer of several NBC prime-time programs -- 30 Rock and The Office among them -- I've grown accustomed to the "green" themed programming that pops up each year on the network and other NBC Universal outlets as well.

    Who doesn't enjoy seeing Al Gore ham it up with Tina Fey from time to time?

    The Wall Street Journal's Amy Chozick has an interesting piece out this week looking at the "eco-friendly" programming:

    In just one week on NBC, the detectives on "Law and Order" investigated a cash-for-clunkers scam, a nurse on "Mercy" organized a group bike ride, Al Gore made a guest appearance on "30 Rock," and "The Office" turned Dwight Schrute into a cape-wearing superhero obsessed with recycling.

    Coincidence? Hardly. NBC Universal planted these eco-friendly elements into scripted television shows to influence viewers and help sell ads.


    Since fall 2007, network executives have been asking producers of almost every prime-time and daytime show to incorporate a green storyline at least once a year. The effort now takes place for a week in April and November. Starting April 19 this year, 40 NBC Universal outlets will feature some 100 hours of green-themed programming, including an episode of the Bravo reality series "Millionaire Matchmaker" in which a 39-year-old tycoon with an eco-friendly clothing line goes into a rage after his blind date orders red meat.


    While the network says it tries to incorporate green programming throughout the year, the special emphasis twice a year creates an "event" that provides opportunities to advertisers, an NBC spokeswoman says. For instance, a Wal-Mart ad focusing on locally grown produce ran this past November after an episode of the medical drama "Trauma" in which emergency medic Rabbit rescues a window washer dangling precariously from a building; medics are alerted to the situation by a man sitting in his hybrid vehicle.

    Behavior placement gives marketers extra incentive to advertise at a time when digital video recorders equip viewers with an unprecedented ability to skip commercials, says Jason Kanefsky, a media buyer at Havas's MPG. "You're not forcing your way into a program in any shape or form," he says. "You're just nodding your head at a program." ABC, CBS and FOX have plenty of product placement but haven't taken the step into behavior placement, network spokesmen say.


    Armed with its own data showing consumers are wiling to spend more if a brand seems eco-friendly, NBC in 2007 launched "Green Week," the programming component of a larger "Green is Universal" corporate campaign. That effort brought in an estimated $20 million in advertising revenue from 20 sponsors, according to industry estimates. Many new clients, including the nutrition bar Soy Joy, came on board, NBC says. In April 2008, the network added another week of green-themed programming, when network logos go green and on-air promos tout NBC's support for the environment. But there are no obvious cues to alert viewers to the green emphasis in programming.

    Chozick's story got me thinking. Wouldn't it be great if the Wall Street Journal spent 1,500 words (the length of the entire aforementioned piece) on a story delving into News Corps' efforts to go green and how its Fox News Channel spends considerable air-time attacking the science behind climate change and anything even vaguely eco-friendly?

    Since the Journal is owned by News Corp, we shouldn't hold our breath. But just in case some Journal reporters happen to be reading (hello there!) I offer the following primer from a column I wrote in February:

    Leading the anti-science idiocy is a host of conservative Fox News figures.

    Over on the network's right-wing morning show, Fox & Friends, co-host Gretchen Carlson maintained her long-held passion for dismissing climate science, saying she wanted to talk about the "dichotomy" created by "big snowstorms" occurring while "the Obama administration [is] talking about creating a new federal office to study global warming." Co-host Steve Doocy added to the nonsense, claiming that it was "interesting, though, given the fact that the weather is so rotten right now, and people are going, 'How can there be global warming if it's snowing and it's fairly cold?' "

    Interesting observation? Hardly. Idiocy worth ignoring? Absolutley.

    Fox News' Sean Hannity dug in deep as well, adding to his extensive history of science denial. The conservative host found it absolutely hilarious that Commerce Secretary Gary Locke had "tunneled his way through two feet of snow in D.C." to announce the proposed creation of a new Climate Service office within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The very next day, Hannity was back at it, saying, "Global warming, where are you? We want you back" while discussing recent winter storms.

    Ironically, Rupert Murdoch -- CEO of News Corp., Fox News' parent company -- stated in 2007 that News Corp. "can set an example" and "reach our audiences" when it comes to fighting climate change, promising to make all of News Corp.'s operations carbon neutral by this year.

    Perhaps it's time for Murdoch to call an all-staff meeting and discuss just how they are reaching their respective audiences on this issue, which he has said "poses clear, catastrophic threats."

    There is a whole lot more where that comes from -- 247 research items, video/audio clips, blog posts and columns here at Media Matters alone.