NBC News Chairman Andy Lack appeared to downplay the growing calls for his network to conduct an outside investigation into its handling of the Matt Lauer misconduct allegations as well as the reported coverup of the Harvey Weinstein scandal.
According to reporting from "Catch and Kill" author Ronan Farrow, Lack and NBC News president Noah Oppenheim were directly implicated in the stonewalling of Farrow's harrowing report on Weinstein's sexual predation and discovered that the disgraced film mogul was trying to leverage Lauer's own scandal over the network.
Amid the fallout of Farrow's reporting, there had been growing calls for NBC News to conduct an outside investigation into the allegations surrounding Lauer, the former "Today" host. Earlier this week, presidential candidates Tom Steyer and Sens. Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren signed a letter urging the Democratic National Committee to hold NBC accountable for its "toxic culture," ahead of Wednesday night's MSNBC debate.
Washington Post media critic Erik Wemple recalled his encounter with the NBC executive backstage at the MSNBC-hosted debate Wednesday night and saw his opportunity to "pounce."
"Given all that activity, surely Lack would want to express his confidence in NBC News's efforts to date, to repudiate Farrow’s reporting and/or to let off some righteous steam? Not so fast," Wemple wrote.
Wemple wrote that Lack "dodged" his questions about the growing calls for an outside investigation.
"I don't have anything to say about it. ... I don't know much about it," Lack said. "Good to see you."
After another attempt to get a response, Lack told Wemple, "I don't really have anything to say about it. I'm here, got a great debate going, so I'll let you go."
NBCUniversal did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Former Vice President Joe Biden had a chance to call out the scandal-inundated Peacock Network when asked about how he would carry on the #MeToo movement as president at the MSNBC debate, but he ultimately went a different direction.
Biden instead gave a widely panned answer in which he said "the culture of how women are treated" needed to change before saying, "We have to... keep punching" at domestic violence.
"No man has a right to raise a hand to a woman, in anger, other than in self-defense... we have to just change the culture, period, and keep punching at it and punching at it and punching at it," Biden said as he punched the air, drawing a snicker from the audience.
"No, I really mean it," Biden said, apparently unaware of what evoked the laughter.
An NBC News insider with knowledge of the relationship between NBC's high-level executives didn't think the network would take action anytime soon.
"Andy Lack is the Rasputin of network news. He has [NBCUniversal CEO Steve] Burke and [Comcast CEO Brian] Roberts so wrapped around his finger that God himself couldn’t force an independent investigation — which Andy knows would certainly result in his ouster," the insider told Fox News.
Last month, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow attacked her own network over its handling of the Weinstein and Lauer scandals.
"NBC letting this story get away is, I guess the best way I can put it is: When you take NBC's word for it, NBC letting that story get away is a shame," Maddow told her viewers ahead of a sit-down with Farrow. "But, in Ronan Farrow's telling, it's not a shame, it's a scandal. NBC is saying essentially, 'It's too bad that story got away, we were hoping to get it to air once it was ready.'
"Ronan Farrow is saying, 'No, you were stopping me from getting it to air and that's why I had to leave.'"
Maddow, who was one of the moderators at the MSNBC debate, did not mention her network's controversies Wednesday night.
Fox News' Brian Flood contributed to this report.