Matt Lauer's firing casts NBC's call on Ronan Farrow in a whole new light

After Matt Lauer was unceremoniously fired from the “Today” show Wednesday, you had to wonder: Why did NBC smother Ronan Farrow’s explosive, months-long investigation into Harvey Weinstein’s alleged sexual assaults and predatory behavior — an investigation undertaken by one of its own employees?

(Farrow is a “contributor” to NBC News; his “Undercover With Ronan Farrow” reports have aired, ironically, on the “Today” show.)

Did NBC know that, in Lauer, it was harboring its own tainted star — and that Farrow’s Weinstein piece could, perhaps, lead back to a co-anchor of its cash-cow morning show?

It just didn’t make sense, then or now, why NBC didn’t go forward with Farrow’s Weinstein exposé — just as it didn’t make sense, back in October 2016, that NBC was late to the party in reporting on the infamous 2005 Donald Trump/Billy Bush “Access Hollywood” tape, leaked to the Washington Post. NBC owns “Access Hollywood,” so there’s that, but still ...

Back to Farrow, who was sitting on an explosive story, sourced to the gills with quotes from alleged Weinstein victims including Ashley Judd: NBC tells Farrow, “Thanks, but no thanks” — and then watches as the piece, published in the New Yorker, sets off the avalanche of tawdry celebrity sexual harassment allegations (i.e., those against Kevin Spacey, Louis C.K. and Charlie Rose, to name a few) that, on Wednesday, crushed one of its own: Lauer, fired from “Today” after a “detailed complaint” of “inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace” leveled against him by an NBC colleague. (It allegedly started during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, which Lauer covered for NBC.)

Imagine how awkward it would have been for Lauer to have reported Farrow’s story on “Today,” or to have had Farrow reporting the story himself, sitting opposite the man who, a month-and-a-half later, would lose his job due to Weinstein-type allegations?

Imagine how awkward it would have been for Lauer to have reported Farrow’s story on “Today,” or to have had Farrow reporting the story himself, sitting opposite the man who, a month-and-a-half later, would lose his job due to Weinstein-type allegations?

NBC News president Andy Lack, announcing Lauer’s firing, pointedly stated that this was the first such complaint against Lauer in his 20-plus years hosting “Today” — yet still axed him on the spot, noting (tellingly) that “we were also presented with reason to believe this may not have been an isolated incident.” I can’t speak to any allegations against Lauer regarding “inappropriate sexual behavior in the work place,” but, duh — rumors of his extracurricular philandering have circulated for years. Lack had to be living under a rock not to have heard those rumors. (Lauer’s wife, Annette Roque, filed for divorce in 2006, citing Lauer’s “cruel and inhumane” behavior. They later reconciled.)

Farrow, when his first Weinstein piece was published in early October, dropped a few read-between-the-lines hints as to why his NBC bosses passed on the exposé. (NBC said it wasn’t ready to be aired.) “I walked into the door at the New Yorker with an explosive reportable piece that should have been public earlier,” Farrow told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow. “And immediately the New Yorker recognized that, and it is not accurate to say that it was not reportable. In fact, there were multiple determinations that it was reportable at NBC.”

In his comments, Farrow seemed to be referring to pressure put on news organizations by public personalities (like Weinstein) not to air or publish incendiary stories exposing them as really bad people. But maybe he knew more than he was letting on vis-à-vis rumors about Lauer whispered in the NBC corridors (and beyond — other news outlets, including Variety, were or still are reportedly working on their own Lauer stories).

We’ll probably never know if NBC knew about the Lauer allegations when it spiked Farrow’s Weinstein piece. But if you do the corporate math, it all adds up.

And it makes you wonder.