This morning, NBC fired morning show golden boy Matt Lauer after receiving a complaint that alleged Lauer had exhibited “inappropriate workplace behavior." In an exclusive report released after Lauer's firing, Variety alleges multiple women have accused the disgraced host of sexual harassment — and those complaints often fell on deaf ears.
There’s a lot to say about Lauer’s situation and its place amongst the Everest-sized pile of sexual harassment and assault allegations that have mounted over the past two months. People are already cheering for Lauer’s former co-anchor Ann Curry, who left her position after a turbulent year next to Lauer, to take over his slot. Other revelations, like Katie Couric joking on an old Watch What Happens Live segment about Lauer “pinching her ass,” are coming to light.
Pundits, critics, and the public alike are positing the same questions that we’ve heard a lot these past 50-plus days: How much did NBC executives know? How long were they protecting Lauer? Who else are they protecting? And what happens now?
There’s not a doubt in my mind that journalists will continue to unravel the crap going on with NBC. But to that last point, I have an idea.
This morning, The Today Show had another co-host, Hoda Kotb, sit in as an emergency replacement for Lauer; she co-anchored with Savannah Guthrie. And since Charlie Rose was fired from CBS last week amid sexual harassment allegations, CBS This Morning co-anchors Gayle King and Norah O’Donnell have managed without their former colleague just fine, thanks.
Sure, having two all-women morning news shows is an irregularity brought on by extraordinary circumstances. But the fact of the matter is, this majority-women morning news phenomenon doesn’t have to be something we only see during a time of crisis; it can be an ongoing reality if we let it and encourage it. Here’s a revelation that shouldn’t be so shocking: We don’t need these men. In fact, it’s a completely and totally viable option that we don’t need to find other dude replacements for them, either.
Look no further than Matt Lauer’s performance for the data. During Ann Curry’s brief tenure, NBC insiders were convinced that Curry was the problematic element in the Curry-Lauer duo. In contrast, research showed that it was in fact Lauer who was leading to dips in ratings with what viewers saw as an “aloof” and “pompous” attitude. And yet, his mediocrity was celebrated while Curry was ousted. Speaking of entertainment, remember when Tina Fey and Amy Poehler took over Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update desk as the first (and still only) women pairing? They’re consistently ranked as the strongest duo the show’s segment has ever had and two of the best Weekend Update anchors, period.
To some, what I’m proposing here is a pretty radical notion. Gasp! A world where a white men aren’t everywhere! Isn’t that an unfair attack on them? What if they’re the most qualified? But this debate isn’t new or just limited to entertainment or media. In 2014, when Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was asked how many women would strike the right balance on the nation’s highest court, she replied that she wouldn’t be satisfied until all nine seats were filled by women. “For most of the country's history, there were nine [justices] and they were all men. Nobody thought that was strange,” she explained.
Wanting to see more women (and people of color and folks from all sorts of backgrounds, for that matter) in our daily lives and in the highest positions of our society isn’t all that revolutionary. It’s not that big of a request to ask that white men aren’t the default. It’s also not the world’s biggest ask to demand that people who aren’t white men not be treated like a “one-at-a-time curiosity,” as Ruth Bader Ginsburg put it. We can have more women, for example, and not worry about there being an “imbalance.” And in truth, as today’s morning shows illustrated, we get on well without the guys there. Guthrie and Kotb handled themselves like damn professionals, as King and O’Donnell have done for the past week.
“What happens now?” people ask. It’s a big question, and there’ll never be a perfect single solution. But we need to start demanding more mornings like this one, where we had two entirely women-led news programs and where no one doubted they were up for the job. We need those moments to turn into the standard. And we have the ability to create that world.
Lily Herman is a contributing editor at Refinery29. Follow her on Twitter. The views expressed are her own.
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