Business & Tech

Matthew Gilbert

With Matt Lauer, another media figure falls, and mistrust grows

Matt Lauer was fired by NBC News for “inappropriate sexual behavior.”
Karsten Moran/New York Times
Matt Lauer was fired by NBC News for “inappropriate sexual behavior.”

My husband and I no longer say “Good morning” to each other. We say, “Who else?” Who else abused his power and left a trail of wounded, offended female victims in his wake?

Today, the “who elses” are Garrison Keillor and Matt Lauer. The latter has essentially been the face of NBC News since Brian Williams fake-newsed himself over to MSNBC in 2015. Lauer, fired from NBC’s “Today” for sexual misconduct, joins fellow morning show icon Charlie Rose in disgrace. Rose was the “who else” of two weeks ago when he was fired from “CBS This Morning.”

That Lauer and Rose have fallen isn’t too much of a shocker at this point, is it? With similar scandals at other news outlets — Bill O’Reilly and Roger Ailes at Fox News, Michael Oreskes at NPR, Leon Wieseltier at the Atlantic, NBC-MSNBC political analyst Mark Halperin — we shouldn’t think that media figures who report or comment on others’ sexual misconduct are above it themselves. Predatory behavior knows no bounds; it surfaces in every setting, from education to politics, where sexual wrongdoing has long been a plague. Even the president stands accused.

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Quickly, the network morning show landscape has become a stark image of zero tolerance. The firings have been swift at NBC and CBS, and the desks are now occupied by women — Savannah Guthrie on NBC, Norah O’Donnell and Gayle King on CBS.

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Ironically, Lauer and Rose were probably positioned by their networks to project a sense of gravitas on their morning shows, which are generally constructed out of soft news and features. They were the real-news men in the morning world of “the women’s pages.” Lauer was the NBC star chosen to take on serious interviews with Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton during the campaign (leading to claims he was harder on Clinton than on Trump), and Rose brought to CBS a sense of a veteran endowed with PBS-style seriousness. Now they are symbols of misspent respect and trust.

Accused men in the media — let’s not forget Glenn Thrush at The New York Times and New Republic publisher Hamilton Fish — present a distinct problem, since credibility is essential to legitimate news outlets. When a media face turns out to be two-faced, it can cast aspersions on their entire operation.

And this is doubly true in the age of “fake news,” where our realities are tethered to the channels we watch and the news sites we visit. The messengers of news have become political fodder, as hotly debated as the messages they deliver to us. Trump’s morning tweets today are evidence of that, as he asked, regarding Lauer, “when will the top executives at NBC & Comcast be fired for putting out so much Fake News.”

The fall of media stars becomes a political shuttlecock — in many cases, more than it becomes an occasion to feel for the victims.

Matthew Gilbert can be reached at gilbert@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @MatthewGilbert.