From one company to another, accused sexual harassers continued to flourish under the leadership of NBC News Chairman Andrew Lack, according to a report.
Lack’s handling of sexual misconduct allegations against powerful men and what role he played in NBC News’ killing of a story about disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein’s behavior toward women were detailed Friday by the Daily Beast.
Years before former "Today" show anchor Matt Lauer was fired from the network for alleged sexual misconduct, Lack was the CEO of Sony BMG Music Entertainment. The report alleges Lack repeatedly failed to act on allegations that music executive Charlie Walk sent “sexual” messages via company email to several female employees.
The report also alleges Walk forcibly tried to kiss one female employee and rubbed his genitals against her during a business dinner.
High-level Sony executives implored Lack, 71, to address Walk’s harassment to no avail.
“I kept telling him: ‘You must do something about this. It’s imperative,’” one executive told the Daily Beast. “Andy would turn a blind eye to making difficult decisions.”
“I kept telling him: ‘You must do something about this. It’s imperative.’ Andy would turn a blind eye to making difficult decisions.”
Walk continued to climb the record industry and stepped down from his position at Republic Records after the allegations were made public earlier this year.
In a statement, NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke told the Daily Beast that Lack “has my complete support. We have worked together closely for over three years during which I have watched him oversee NBC News with great integrity, sound judgment and a focus on doing what’s right.”
The Daily Beast also reported that during Lack’s years as head of Bloomberg Media Group, he regularly boasted of his friendship with Lauer and that he knew the star news anchor had been unfaithful to his wife.
"He had total Matt Lauer worship,” a former Bloomberg executive told the Daily Beast. “I asked him ‘Are the rumors true? And he responded by saying ‘Matt can’t help himself. He loves people. Matt’s a very friendly guy.’”
"He had total Matt Lauer worship. I asked him ‘Are the rumors true? And he responded by saying, ‘Matt can’t help himself. He loves people. Matt’s a very friendly guy.’”
Concerning Ronan Farrow’s 2017 investigation into sexual harassment allegations against Weinstein, Farrow grew frustrated when company executives said it wasn’t ready to air, the report said.
Farrow eventually took the story to the New Yorker and subsequently won a Pulitzer Prize.
NBC News President Noah Oppenheim publicly took responsibility for the decision to pass on the bombshell story, but privately he told a colleague “it was Andy’s decision.”
A former NBC News producer working on the reporter’s investigation into the Weinstein allegations claimed an order to stop pursuing the story came from “the very highest levels at NBC.”
For his part, Lack defended the handling of the story in a 10-page memo provided to Fox News.
"We spent eight months pursuing the story but at the end of that time, NBC News – like many others before us – still did not have a single victim or witness willing to go on the record. (Rose McGowan – the only woman Farrow interviewed who was willing to be identified – had refused to name Weinstein and then her lawyer sent a cease-and-desist letter.)," Lack wrote. "So we had nothing yet fit to broadcast. But Farrow did not agree with that standard. That’s where we parted ways – agreeing to his request to take his reporting to a print outlet that he said was ready to move forward immediately."
Lack is in his second stint with NBC News. He was named president in 1993 and left in 2001 before rejoining the network in 2015.
The Daily Beast report also detailed the handling of host Megyn Kelly as she prepared to run a segment on her NBC show about allegations against veteran reporter Tom Brokaw. A senior vice president of communications who reports directly to Lack conveyed to Kelly that the news cycle had moved on from Brokaw.
“Kelly has been frustrated by NBC pushback on much of her coverage,” said a person who knows her. “In particular pushback on much of her #MeToo coverage.
A report in August said Lack was facing dismissal over his handling of the #MeToo scandals and the Kelly debacle.