Ex NBC News anchor calls for Comcast’s sole woman board member to force outside probe on Lauer scandal, sex harassment
A sign at Rockefeller Center in New York City last month. (Reuters/Brian McDermid)
A former anchor at NBC News tells Fox News she is in contact with “multiple women” who are frustrated that NBC News Chairman Andy Lack refuses to hire an outside investigator to review a culture of sexual misconduct at the network.
The women now want to speak with the board of NBC parent Comcast and “provide names of specific people who are hostile to women or outright harassers” who have not yet been publicly accused.
On Wednesday, Fox News reported that a separate group of anonymous current NBC News staffers planned to contact Madeline S. Bell, Comcast’s only female director, asking her to intervene. Shortly after the story was published, the former NBC News employee contacted Fox News to discuss a different “network” of women who feel that Lack and his embattled deputy, Noah Oppenheim, aren’t being transparent about the “toxic” environment at NBC News.
“There are other women who have been harassed or assaulted at NBC News who want to join the letter to Comcast demanding an outside law firm be hired to investigate the hostile work environment under Andy Lack,” the former NBC anchor -- who for now requested anonymity -- told Fox News.
Madeline S. Bell, a member of the Comcast board. (Copyright 2014 Ed Cunicelli Photo)
The former anchor said numerous women began contacting each other when now-disgraced “Today” star Matt Lauer was fired over inappropriate sexual behavior last month. The group of former and current NBC News employees has stayed in touch and wants “to share their stories of when they were harassed, groped or outright assaulted at NBC News,” said the former employee, who added that many of the women haven’t come forward for fear of retribution.
“It’s our belief that Andy Lack is trying to protect, first and foremost, Andy Lack,” she said. “And perhaps others.”
“If we had the chance to speak to Madeline Bell, we would provide names of specific people who are hostile to women or outright harassers. We would also provide details about how this toxic culture came to exist under Andy Lack."- Former NBC News anchor
Once the network of women saw that Lack was refusing to hire an outside law firm to investigate, its members became determined “to get the truth out in other ways,” according to the source. Some of the women plan to come forward when the time is right, while others are waiting to see how the process plays out because they still work in the industry.
Matt Lauer, Andy Lack and Noah Oppenheim.
In addition to the Lauer scandal, Lack and Oppenheim have come under increasing fire for sitting on two explosive sex harassment stories: Ronan Farrow’s investigation of Harvey Weinstein this past fall, and the “Access Hollywood” tape of Donald Trump just over a year ago. Both stories were given to other premier news organizations after NBC refused to broadcast them, and Farrow’s, which ultimately appeared in the New Yorker, is picking up Pulitzer Prize buzz.
In addition to Lauer being fired, MSNBC recently admitted that star Chris Matthews settled in 1999 with a former producer who accused him of sexual harassment; fired Senior Vice President Matt Zimmerman after he “engaged in inappropriate conduct with more than one woman” at the network; fired “Morning Joe” regular Mark Halperin for sexual misconduct; and suspended two contributors, Glenn Thrush and Harold Ford Jr., after they were accused of harassment by women.
The NBC News execs have insisted on keeping what they call their “review” of the sex harassment scandals in house and under their thumb, despite a growing list of calls for more transparency. Even President Trump has taken a shot, urging his Twitter followers to “Check out Andy Lack’s past” and look into MSNBC President Phil Griffin.
The letter that current NBC News staffers planned to send Comcast director Bell – the contents of which were shown to Fox News -- focused on Lack and Oppenheim being unable to conduct a fair investigation because of their close ties to Lauer.
“We find it extremely suspect that two executives who are lifelong members of Matt Lauer’s very small boys club could possibly be objective in this matter -- particularly as they are financially incentivized with millions of dollars in pay a year to maintain this status quo,” says a draft of the letter, written by current employees who have asked to remain anonymous.
Bell’s office would not confirm if she received the letter and she declined to speak to Fox News.
Bell is the sole woman on the 10-person board of communications behemoth Comcast. Bell, the president and CEO of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, joined nine powerful men when she was added to the board in February 2016. Aside from Bell, the company’s board is essentially packed with male bankers, lawyers and entrepreneurs.
Chris Matthews. (REUTERS)
“If we had the chance to speak to Madeline Bell, we would provide names of specific people who are hostile to women or outright harassers," the former anchor said. "We would also provide details about how this toxic culture came to exist under Andy Lack and sincerely offer suggestions about how the culture could be changed for the better."
Comcast did not respond when asked if it would make Bell available to speak with the group of former NBC employees who say they were sexually harassed but have not yet come forward.
Furthermore, NBC has declined repeated inquiries into whether there have been more complaints about Matthews since the 1999 incident, for which the network confirms he received a reprimand.
Brian Flood covers the media for Fox News. Follow him on Twitter at @briansflood.