NBC’s latest controversy comes at the hands of Mike Tirico, who is set to anchor the embattled network’s coverage of the upcoming Winter Olympics despite a past that includes various allegations of sexual harassment, including stalking, groping and making explicit comments to female colleagues.
Tirico left ESPN in 2016 to join NBC Sports and is scheduled to replace broadcasting legend Bob Costas as the prime-time host of the 2018 Olympic Games from PyeongChang, South Korea, which will kick off on Feb. 9.
All of the allegations against Tirico came when he was employed at ESPN, but it appears NBC is willing to look the other way despite an ongoing change in culture across the media landscape that has resulted in many high-profile dismissals for similar misconduct.
“When we hired Mike in 2016, we were aware of the incidents from more than 25 years ago, which had been addressed in 1991-92 by ESPN, his employer at the time, and for which he has apologized," an NBC spokesperson told The Hollywood Reporter. "Mike has repeatedly assured us that this behavior is long in his past, and we have no evidence of anything to the contrary.”
Last week, NBC News fired its biggest star, Matt Lauer, for inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace. Ironically, the alleged incident that resulted in his dismissal took place at the 2014 Sochi Olympics — an assortment of other allegations have since surfaced regarding the disgraced former “Today” co-host.
An excerpt from Mike Freeman’s 2000 book “ESPN: An Uncensored History” was published on the sports blog Deadspin back in 2006. The book details a 1992 incident in which Tirico was essentially “stalking” a female colleague, following her around a party and complimenting her appearance. “Get away from me," the woman eventually said as she tried to exit the party in a car filled with friends.
“Tirico stepped in front of the car and made the woman stop. ‘You're the most beautiful person I've ever seen and I think I'm in love with you,’ Tirico said. She tried to roll up her window and take off, but Tirico stuck his hand in and tried to wedge it between her thighs,” Freeman wrote.
The excerpt continues: “She got away, and the next morning, when they saw each other in the ESPN parking lot, he walked up to her, and she expected him to apologize. Instead, he said, ‘all I did all day was think about you.’”
Another allegation that was detailed in the book involves Tirico sending an email to a female producer in which he stated his desire to sleep with her.
“Later, when the staff went to a bar after a late night covering the NCAA tournament, Tirico approached her and said, ‘I wish I was single. If I were, I'd throw you on the table right here and f--k your brains out,” Freeman wrote.
Tirico allegedly tried, unsuccessfully, to follow her down a highway when she exited the party, according to the excerpt. He was suspended for three months because of the incidents and admitted to the allegations when he spoke to Freeman about the book, calling them "misunderstandings."
Andrew Miller and Tom Shales’ oral history of ESPN, "Those Guys Have All the Fun” also details Tirico’s pervy history. Six women made allegations against the former “Monday Night Football” broadcaster between accounts in the two books.
ESPN rep Josh Krulewitz told Fox News that these “charges were aggressively addressed 25 years ago” and resulted in a lengthy suspension.
An NBC rep concurred, telling Fox News, "When we hired Mike in 2016, we were aware of the incidents from more than 25 years ago, which had been addressed in 1991 by ESPN, his employer at the time, and for which he has apologized. In our discussions on this topic, Mike has repeatedly assured us that this behavior is long in his past, and we have no evidence of anything to the contrary in his tenure at NBC Sports. Mike will continue in his various duties at NBC Sports, including the role of primetime Olympic host."
Costas announced earlier this year that he would step aside as prime-time host of NBC's Olympics coverage to make room for Tirico. Costas had been the on-air concierge to NBC's Olympics 11 times, starting in 1992. The Olympics role requires the host to set the stage for the night's telecast, guide viewers on switches to different venues, handle news if it breaks and conduct on-air interviews. It was a job popularized by ABC's Jim McKay in the 1970s.
Tirico was considered the heir apparent for the role since he was hired by NBC from ESPN last year. His past sexual misconduct will presumably come up as NBC prepares for the event and the network has faced a variety of other scandals in recent memory. NBC News executives Andy Lack and Noah Oppenheim continue to face scrutiny for their decision to spike a report that would have outed Harvey Weinstein as a sexual predator months before other news organizations broke the news.
There is also an ongoing investigation regarding who knew about Lauer’s behavior, but famed attorney Gloria Allred recently criticized NBC’s decision to keep the investigation in-house. In addition, NBC sat on the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape that featured Donald Trump making lewd comments on a hot mic. It was mysteriously leaked to Washington Post reporter David Fahrenthold, who is Oppenheim’s friend from their days at the prestigious Harvard University.