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NBC News Chief Andy Lack Faces Scrutiny Over Handling of Sexual Harassment Claims

A new report alleges NBC News Chairman Andrew Lack has a history of not acting decisively on allegations of sexual harassment, the latest assertion that the NBC Universal news division has not taken as seriously as it could several bombshell revelations in recent months about its internal culture and its handling of stories related to the topic.

The story, posted Friday in The Daily Beast, alleges Lack has not moved quickly in the past when confronted by accusations of workers under his aegis acting inappropriately. In 2004. the report said, Lack declined to address inappropriate behavior by music executive Charlie Walk while working in 2004 as chairman and CEO of Sony BMG Music Entertainment. Walk was subsequently accused of harassment this year by former female employees.

The accusation arrives after NBC News has come under fire multiple times in recent months for its handling of sensitive stories related to sexual harassment. NBC News, citing reporting that had yet to meet its standards, declined to air reports by journalist Ronan Farrow and investigative producer Rich McHugh that revealed accusations of untoward behavior by movie mogul Harvey Weinstein. Farrow would eventually take that reporting to The New Yorker, where it would go on to win a Pulitzer Prize. NBC News faced similar opprobrium in the fall of 2016 when it was scooped by The Washington Post on the existence of a tape from “Access Hollywood” — a show that is part of its parent, NBCUniversal – featuring a younger Donald Trump making lewd remarks about women and acknowledging he felt he had carte blanche to grab them by their genitals.

In a statement, NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke NBCUniversal  told The Daily Beast that Lack “has my complete support. We have worked together closely for over three years during which I have watched him oversee NBC News with great integrity, sound judgment and a focus on doing what’s right. I look forward to continuing to work with Andy and to his continued success as the leader of NBC News.” The company also said that “Lack had no knowledge of any allegations against Charlie Walk in the six years he was at Sony. If he did, he would have acted within minutes.”

A spokesman for NBCU said the company had no comment beyond the statement.

Lack is doing a second stint at NBC News. When he was  first named president of NBC News in 1993, it was after the division had suffered a black eye in the wake of a report on “Dateline” in which producers admitted to rigging a pickup truck to catch fire as part of a report on General Motors pickup trucks. GM in turn sued NBC for defamation. He reinvigorated the news organization, expanding hours for “Today” and gaining new ratings.

His second tour of duty has been more complex. Lack started just after former “NBC Evening News” anchor Brian Williams became embroiled in a controversy over the veracity of various anecdotes he had told during public appearances and on air. NBC News appeared to quell that fire for a time, installing Lester Holt in the evening-news seat and reviving Williams as a nighttime host on MSNBC. But Matt Lauer’s exit last November after being cited for inappropriate sexual behavior, and the accusations swirling around the Farrow report have muddied perceptions, even as MSNBC’s ratings swell and NBC News’ flagship programs maintain dominance in the viewer demographic most coveted by advertisers, people between 25 and 54.

An NBC News spokesperson noted that Lack publicly called Lauer’s behavior “appalling” and said Lack has “repeatedly praised the courage of the colleague who came forward, vigorously protected her anonymity, and has made real and lasting changes to the workplace culture.”  Lack “is deeply saddened by it for the organization and for the women who came forward,” a network spokesperson said, “and he has said that in private settings around this building and in notes to the organization. It’s been obviously difficult for everyone here and most especially the women who had to endure what they did.”

The report criticized Lack for including David Corvo, senior executive producer of “Dateline,” in the review of Farrow’s work. Corvo, the report alleged, had been accused of sexually harassing a female co-worker while NBC was part of General Electric. That woman, according to the report, left after being paid a substantial sum as part of a separation agreement.  “At a time when different people ran the news division and a different company owned NBC the company investigated a complaint and took effective action, including changing reporting lines,” NBC said. “The individuals departure over a decade later and any compensation paid was completely unrelated to the complaint.”

The report also alleges other instances of NBC News seeming hesitant to confront harassment allegations or report on harassment news under its own roof.  The story alleged Lack had longstanding friendships with both  Lauer and Tom Brokaw, two of NBC News’ most famous on-air personalities. Both have been accused of unwanted behavior. The Beast report alleged Lack has been annoyed by Megyn Kelly’s coverage of the “MeToo” movement on her morning program, “Megyn Kelly Today,” where she has interviewed one of Lauer’s accusers and featured segments on allegations against Brokaw.

NBCUniversal has investigated the news division in the wake of the Lauer firing. A report prepared by the company that was released in May and greeted with some degree of skepticism  said managers at the company’s “Today” show and at NBC News had no knowledge of inappropriate behavior by the star anchor prior to his dismissal in November.

 

 

 

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