NBC’s Today show began with an emotional segment on Wednesday morning, as Savannah Guthrie was joined by Hoda Kotb to announce the termination of longtime co-host Matt Lauer on the basis of alleged inappropriate sexual behavior. The live segment took place just moments after the two women learned of the accusations and allowed viewers to witness them as they grappled with the news themselves.
After reading the statement written by NBC News chairman Andy Lack, Guthrie presented the limited information that they had gathered, and ultimately opened up about the difficult emotions that she and Kotb were experiencing as they tried to reconcile their love for Lauer with the revelation that he had done wrong.
“For the moment, all we can say is that we are heartbroken,” Guthrie said of herself and Kotb. “I’m heartbroken for Matt. He is my dear, dear friend and my partner, and he is beloved by many, many people here. And I’m heartbroken for the brave colleague who came forward to tell her story, and any other women who have their own stories to tell.”
The statement came as a surprise to many, who either couldn’t believe how poised the two were or had difficulty accepting the co-hosts’ standing affection toward Lauer. However, their words illustrate the incredible emotional dilemma presented by the recent string of incidents related to sexual harassment, which they admitted they didn’t yet know how to deal with. But in support of the women coming forward with their stories, who may still be contending with the pain of the harassment or assault, Guthrie acknowledged how vital these painful moments are.
“This reckoning that so many organizations have been going through is important, it’s long overdue, and it must result in workplaces where all women — all people — feel safe and respected,” Guthrie said. “As painful as it is, this moment in our culture and this change had to happen.”
Just after the initial announcement made by Guthrie, Today colleague Megyn Kelly addressed the news herself. Expressing a similar sentiment, she fondly reflected on her own relationship with Lauer while reiterating her unwavering support of any woman who deals with harassment.
“I see the anguish on my colleagues’ faces,” Kelly said. “But when this happens, what we don’t see is the pain on the faces of those who found the courage to come forward. And it is a terrifying thing to do. We don’t see the career opportunities women lose because of sexual harassment, or the intense stress it causes a woman dealing with it when she comes to work each day. I am thinking of those women this morning, and hoping they are OK.”
Both statements emphasize the importance of not only sharing stories of sexual misconduct but also coming forward to support these women and letting society know that no woman is alone in this fight. For those who have relationships with the men accused, this is more difficult, which was initially expressed by comedian Sarah Silverman.
Following the detailed accusations against Louis C.K., and his admission of the allegations, Silverman took to her Hulu series I Love You, America to address the difficult truth about her friend of more than 25 years. Along the same lines as the women of NBC, Silverman acknowledged her relationship with him and her anguish for the women he victimized.
“I love Louis, but Louis did these things. Both of those statements are true. So I just keep asking myself, can you love someone who did bad things?” Silverman said. “I can mull over that later, certainly, because the only people that matter right now are the victims. They are victims, and they are victims because of something he did. So I hope it’s OK if I am at once very angry for the women he wronged and the culture that enabled it, and also sad because he’s my friend.”
Although Silverman seemingly stood alone in making the difficult statement at the time, it wasn’t even two weeks before Charlie Rose faced a number of allegations that led to his termination from CBS and a similar statement from his colleague and friend Gayle King.
Through an almost identical evolution of feelings and ideas, King expressed a sadness over her relationship with Rose while simultaneously expressing great sorrow for his victims. Ultimately, she said that regardless of her affection for her co-host, “Charlie does not get a pass here.”
“He doesn’t get a pass because I can’t stop thinking about the anguish of these women. What happened to their dignity, what happened to their bodies, what happened maybe even to their careers?” King said. “I can’t stop thinking about that and the pain that they’re going through. I also find that you can hold two ideas in your head at the same time, you can grapple with things. And to be very honest with you, I’m still trying to process all of this.”
And while all of the women above are still processing the difficult allegations that continue to come forward, King graciously summed up her feelings, with the most pressing concern being for her fellow women.
“I’m still trying to sort it out because this is not the man I know,” King said, “but I’m also very clearly on the side of the women who have been very hurt and very damaged by this.”
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