Protestors rallied outside NBC News headquarters in New York City on Wednesday, demanding that NBCUniversal takes immediate action against alleged abuses of power amid ongoing scandals related to Harvey Weinstein and Matt Lauer.
Activists and sexual assault survivors from UltraViolet, a leading national women’s organization, organized the rally. UltraViolet co-founder Shaunna Thomas was front and center, blasting NBC for allegedly failing “to hold sexual abusers accountable” and failing to “combat a toxic culture across newsrooms.”
The group called for NBCUniversal to fire NBC News president Noah Oppenheim, MSNBC president Phil Griffin and “every other person in leadership that enabled abusers and silenced survivors” at the Peacock Network.
“It's not just a Matt Lauer problem. It's a company-wide problem. And it's one that Comcast NBC needs to take seriously and demonstrate that they're taking seriously,” Thomas said outside NBC’s famed 30 Rock.
UltraViolet also demanded that the embattled network release all “survivors from non-disclosure agreements,” “end the practice of pre-dispute arbitration for sexual abuse claims” and commission an independent internal investigation into company culture.
The group swarmed NBC’s headquarters and chanted in the lobby.
"Where oh where is NBC? Come on down and speak to me,” the women chanted until a building staffer accepted a petition with nearly 20,000 signatures and promised to get it into the hands of NBC management.
NBC News and NBCUniversal did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Oppenheim – who reportedly recently received a new contract -- has been widely criticized for his role in the handling of the Weinstein and Lauer sexual harassment scandals. Oppenheim is painted as a key figure in NBC’s decision not to run Ronan Farrow’s award-winning report that exposed Weinstein as a sexual predator throughout his book “Catch and Kill.”
Oppenheim famously told Farrow that his Weinstein reporting wasn’t fit to print, so Farrow took it to The New Yorker, where it won the Pulitzer Prize and helped launch the #MeToo movement.
Farrow’s book details his version of why NBC refused to expose Weinstein – which includes allegations that the disgraced movie mogul leveraged the knowledge of Lauer’s own misconduct.
“The fact that Comcast was renewing Noah Oppenheimer's contract while being aware of and knowing that these allegations were coming forward....I think demonstrates that this problem goes right to the top. And that's the parent company, Comcast,” Thomas said.
Farrow’s book also reported that MSNBC’s president, Griffin, once shared a revealing image of TV host Maria Menounos during a staff meeting – which irked one particular protestor.
“I am a huge fan of MSNBC and when I read what this guy did, I could not believe it. He showed a woman's private part at a meeting. You don't do that to anybody,” a protestor told Fox News.
After the Weinstein and Lauer bombshells were reported in 2017, NBC refused to hire an outside investigator to determine who knew about Lauer’s alleged sexual misconduct and whether NBC executives looked the other way. NBC relied on in-house general counsel Kim Harris despite widespread calls for an outside law firm to conduct the review.
NBC eventually declared that management was completely oblivious to Lauer’s behavior and Harris’ high-powered colleagues were cleared by the network – but UltraViolet has vowed not to give up until an independent investigation is launched.
“There is a structural problem with sexual harassment and covering up sexual harassment in a culture that permits that kind of behavior to go on inside this company,” Thomas said. “We would expect that NBC would be a place where it would be safe for women to work and to be able to have their voices heard. And that's not the case. And that's why we're here.”
Another protestor told Fox News that “NBC is particularly guilty of it and refuses to really take any responsibility” for its wrongdoings, while others expressed displeasure that the liberal MSNBC was involved.
“You know, MSNBC is like far left, you know, so those of us who believe in progressive politics, we pay a lot of attention. We listen to them. We watch them. And now to hear that all of this stuff is coming out about how they're suppressing women's voices,” a protestor said.