Sexual misconduct allegations are continuing to reduce the ranks of men in the anti-Trump media.
Charlie Rose of CBS and PBS, left-wing filmmaker Harvey Weinstein, Mark Halperin of NBC and MSNBC, and Michael Oreskes of NPR were joined just this week in the ranks of the unemployed by NBC “Today” co-host Matt Lauer and Garrison Keillor of Minnesota Public Radio. Keillor also lost his newspaper column distributed by the Washington Post syndicate. And New York Times White House reporter Glenn Thrush remains suspended.
These were hardly the only media figures affected as the industry wrestles with how to handle the crisis. NPR Chief News Editor David Sweeney and a CNN “staff member on the Sunday morning program ‘State of the Union’” both also lost their jobs. Three staffers at Vice media were also let go, “amid an ongoing investigation into sexual harassment and misconduct in the workplace,” according to The Hill.
But for prominent names like Lauer and Keillor to be fired within days of one another stunned an already staggering media industry.
Lauer’s case was horribly disturbing. The allegations and creepy on-air incidents were bad enough. The New York Times reported that Lauer invited one woman into his office and “locked the door and sexually assaulted her.” The woman told the newspaper she passed out and had to be taken to a nurse.
Lauer had been a reliably liberal voice over the years. He loved chiding Donald Trump, wondering in 2016 if the “Access Hollywood” tape would cause Trump to lose the presidential race and asking: “Is this the final, final straw in this campaign?”
Another time, Lauer hectored Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., asking if Trump “has damaged the credibility of the office of the presidency.” He also questioned whether Trump had the “gravitas” for the job.
As with Rose, old video clips were also damning. Former “Today” co-anchor Katie Couric said Lauer “pinches me on the ass a lot” in a 2012 clip.
Another 2012 tone-deaf skit depicted Lauer as the “victim” of sex harassment by co-host Willie Geist. Lauer seemed to make reference to an embarrassing, partially naked photo of actress Anne Hathaway during one controversial interview. And TMZ found one where former “Today” co-host Meredith Vieira mentioned that Lauer had a “huge bag of sex toys" in his office.
Vanity Fair reported that Lauer had also tried to keep NBC from firing the show’s long-standing booker, also over sexual harassment allegations.
Lauer is reportedly trying to squeeze $30 million from the network in a settlement, essentially paying off his remaining contract. It’s likely neither Lauer nor NBC want that trial and the discovery it would include, so a settlement is probable.
2. Lake Woebegone Is Now Just Gone: On Nov. 28, Garrison Keillor wrote a column for The Washington Post headlined “Al Franken should resign? That’s absurd.” The column defended Franken, a Democratic U.S. senator from Minnesota who has been accused of sexual misconduct.
But Keillor was fending off his own accusations and watching his career crash within hours afterward.
The former “Prairie Home Companion” host was “accused of inappropriate behavior with someone who worked with him, according to Minnesota Public Radio,” reported NPR. Public radio cut ties with Keillor and he found himself defending his own career, not Franken’s.
“I meant to pat her back after she told me about her unhappiness and her shirt was open and my hand went up it about six inches. She recoiled. I apologized,” Keillor said, according to The Minneapolis Star Tribune.
MPR and American Public Media have dropped “Prairie Home Companion” because Keillor has the rights to the program, although he retired earlier as performer.
Washington Post Editorial Page Editor Fred Hiatt skewered Keillor for his column on Franken and vowed it would be Keillor’s last for the paper. “Knowing he was under investigation for his workplace behavior, he should not have written a column on that subject,” wrote Hiatt in a statement posted above the Keillor column.
Keillor had been a consistent Democratic donor and a frequent anti-Trump voice. In one column he seemed to urge a military coup against President Trump, writing in the Washington Post that “we are looking to generals to save us from democracy.” One wonders if they can also save Keillor’s career.
3. Is Conyers Still An “Icon?”: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has a way with words. She called Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., “an icon” on NBC’s “Meet The Press.” Conyers resigned his leadership post on the House Judiciary Committee within hours.
The reaction was harsh and Pelosi changed her tune. By Thursday she was calling for Conyers to go. “Congressman Conyers should resign," she said.
Not all of his supporters gave up on Conyers, however. Democratic Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina compared Conyers’ accusers to a child killer who falsely accused African-Americans of her crime. The broadcast networks dutifully ignored his allegation. Over at MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” the dynamic duo of Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski used the term “icon” at least five times to refer to Conyers.
As happens in most of these sexual misconduct cases, suddenly reporters got honest about the accused. Veteran journalist Cokie Roberts said Conyers had a reputation with the female members of the press.
“Don’t get in the elevator with him, you know, and the whole every female in the press corps knew that, right, don’t get in elevator with him,” Roberts said. Of course, that information about the prominent Democrat wasn’t news until now.
4. Is The Times Neutral? Again, Nope: The New York Times’ opinion section has an opinion: Support Democrats, stop Republicans. The paper’s Twitter feed was darn obvious about it, too.
“Now is the time to contact senators, if you haven’t done so already, about this tax cut plan. Find yours here.” It followed with a list of senators and phone, phone numbers and the hashtag. “#thetaxbillhurts.”
Editorial page writer Vikas Bajaj defended the unusual practice and the paper’s Twitter feed retweeted him. “It is the job of editorial writers & editorial boards to advocate for policies we agree with and against proposals we don't. That's what we were doing on @nytopinion today.”
5. We’re Havin’ A Party! CNN Isn’t!: The White House is having its annual Christmas Party and the petulant folks at CNN didn’t miss the chance to remind the world that CNN = #Resistance. So the network refused to attend “in light of the President's continued attacks on freedom of the press.” There was a time when professional journalists used such events to improve ties instead of grandstand.
This is the same network that employs American Radio Networks Washington Bureau Chief April Ryan as a political analyst. Ryan was a pecan pie truther just days before. Newsweek whipped out its spinning wheel and crafted this gem of a headline: “WHITE HOUSE BARS ONE OF FEW BLACK JOURNALISTS FROM ATTENDING CHRISTMAS PARTY.” Newsweek’s not biased at all.