Matt Lauer conducted controversial interviews with celebrities and other public figures for decades. He interviewed an agitated Tom Cruise about his views on perscription drugs. He brought pop star Britney Spears to tears. He came under fire for his handling of the NBC “Commander-in-Chief” forum during the 2016 presidential campaign.
But the “Today” anchor’s September interview with former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly is particularly interesting in light of Lauer’s firing for alleged inappropriate sexual conduct.
The interview came nearly six months after O’Reilly was forced out of his top-rated Fox News show “The O’Reilly Factor.” He was fired after The New York Times reported that five women had received settlements totaling $13 million after they alleged sexual harassment and other mistreatment. (It was later reported O’Reilly settled a sixth case for $32 million.)
O’Reilly spent the interview vehemently denying the harassment allegations made against him. Lauer did not hold back with his questioning.
“But think about those five women and what they did,” Lauer said. “They came forward and filed complaints against the biggest star at the network they worked at. Think about how intimidating that must have been and how nerve wracking that must have been. Doesn’t that tell you how strongly they felt about the way they were treated by you?
“Let me put a period on it this way, Bill, by asking you over the last six months since your firing, have you done some soul searching? Have you done some self-reflection? And have you looked at the way you treated women that you think now or think about differently now than you did at the time?”
NBC News announced Wednesday that Lauer was fired after “a complaint from a colleague about inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace.” “Today” hosts Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb reported the firing at the top of the show’s broadcast Wednesday morning.
Lauer had been an anchor on the show for 20 years, taking over in 1997.