Joe Simonson, DCNF
The April-May weeks have been hard for NBC. Instead of just a singular misstep, recent incidents of lying, victim shaming, and a complete lack of editorial standards have demonstrated structural problems within one of the country’s largest news networks.
For starters, many were left wondering how Joy Reid managed to keep her show at the network after internet sleuths found decade-old homophobic posts on her blog. Theoretically, Reid could have been forgiven if she had just came clean and discussed how her — just like tens of millions of other Americans — views evolved over the years.
Except instead of a simple mea culpa, Reid decided to blame the posts on rogue hackers destined to ruin her career years before anyone had any idea who she was. According to various reports, NBC executives don’t buy this excuse, yet there are no signs she’ll be facing any sort of disciplinary action,
NBC seems completely unconcerned with how this incident might impact a viewer’s willingness to believe Reid’s future reporting or commentary. If she — and by extension NBC — believes the public is gullible enough to buy her excuse, what else does Reid think she can pull?
Given the pass Reid received, it makes perfect sense Brokaw went on the offensive after multiple women have accused him of sexual misconduct. Of course, Brokaw is perfectly obliged to defend himself against any accusations; but why would his employer allow him to essentially publicly accuse Linda Vester of lobbing this accusation because she felt frustrated about the direction of her career, instead of a brief denial?
NBC’s employees also took the unprecedented step and circulated a letter of support internally that implicitly victim shamed Linda Vester for having the gall to accuse one of the network’s most esteemed employees.
One must wonder again how NBC’s public relations department thought this was a wise move. Multiple reports alleged women felt pressured to sign the letter, The Daily Caller News Foundation confirmed independently.
Given the country’s recent hyper-sensitivity to sexual harassment, what was NBC hoping the letter would accomplish? The incident behind Vester and Brokaw happened 20 years ago — long before many individuals who signed the letter even worked at NBC.
Since the letter came out, another woman came forward and accused Brokaw of acting similarly over 50 years ago. Despite the new allegation, NBC seems completely disinterested in disciplining Brokaw or wondering how its handling of the controversy might impact the trust viewers put in the network.
NBC threatened The Washington Post with a lawsuit because its reporter had the nerve to investigate how the network handles sexual harassment incidents, The Daily Caller News Foundation also discovered.
NBC’s privileging of loyalty over standards has even begun impacting the quality of its reporting.
On Thursday, both NBC and MSNBC seemingly broke the bombshell report that federal investigators had wiretapped President Donald Trump attorney Michael Cohen’s phones.
Hours later, MSNBC was forced to run a correction, “Feds are monitoring, not listening to Cohen’s calls,” meaning investigators simply obtained a pen register warrant — not a wire tap.
The sloppy reporting is consistent with NBC’s recent shoot-by-the-hip playbook. Given how consequential of a story this potentially would have been, one would imagine a series of lawyers, executives and editors would double check Tom Winter’s facts.
Instead, similar to how Reid was given free rein to lie her way out of a controversy, or how Tom Brokaw felt comfortable gas lighting a sexual assault victim, Winter confidently reported what was the biggest story of the month without bothering to confirm its accuracy.
Despite all these missteps, NBC feels confident it can handle its issues completely internally. After reports surfaced that NBC knew about disgraced “Today Show” cohost Matt Lauer’s sexual discretions before they came public, the network said it would undergo a culture review — without hiring an outside firm.
The same people who cleared Reid to contrive stories about hackers, shame a woman who felt sexually assaulted, and allowed anchors to run totally erroneous news reports, will also somehow be responsible for fixing all these same problems.
Trust in the media is already at an all-time low. In under a month, one network managed to affirm the public’s suspicions aren’t unfounded. Shockingly, that same network doesn’t seem remotely concerned with remedying this problem — and is marching forward full steam ahead.