Ahead of Wednesday’s Democratic presidential debate, candidates are taking a stand against sexual assault and workplace harassment by demanding answers from NBC, the fifth debate's co-host. As ongoing allegations of sexual misconduct and “toxic culture” continue to unfold, four candidates are asking parent company Comcast for an independent investigation on the eve of the debate, which is the first of this general election to be moderated by an all-women panel. In a letter penned by Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, and Cory Booker, candidates call out NBC News and MSNBC for creating a culture that “enabled abusers and silenced survivors.” The special letter was addressed to Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez on Monday, prior to the debate scheduled for November 20.
“There is clearly something wrong with a work environment reluctant to hold management accountable,” the letter reads. “The troubling reports about management’s role to cover up abuse demonstrate that Comcast should have and needs to do more to shift the work culture and pursue significant structural changes in order to prevent future harassment and abuse at NBC and MSNBC.”
These concerns follow a slew of sexual abuse allegations against Matt Lauer that first came to light in November 2017, but was recently perpetuated by the release of reporter Ronan Farrow's Catch And Kill, which investigates and sheds light on how the company handled those allegations and other sexual harassment claims within the network. It also details the efforts taken by management to stifle the reporting of Harvey Weinstein's case.
In October, MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow, who will act as one of the moderators for the fifth debate, delivered a powerful monologue on her show as a response. In it, she asked her own parent company why they chose not to hold an independent investigation and instead conducted an internal one that led NBC believe they could wash their hands of the problem as a whole.
Now, before the show can go on, the letter demands that Comcast — the parent company of NBC and MSNBC — conduct a sexual misconduct probe that further enabled key players at the company to silence these ongoing allegations.
“We, as a party, have to offer voters a clear and unquestionable difference come November when it comes to these important issues,” the candidates state. “We can not do that when we prop up and support companies that have systematically covered up numerous incidents of sexual violence with no accountability or changes of leadership.”
This topic delves beyond politics for Warren, who previously addressed her own experience with workplace sexual harassment. While Booker and Sanders have each been steadfast champions of women's rights and addressed ongoing issues of sexual assault throughout their platforms, Harris is another candidate who makes a point to bring up these concerns at every turn.
Meanwhile, the letter also points out the current president Donald Trump is currently facing sexual assault accusations from “dozens” of women, and seeks to eradicate this behavior from a position of power. But, what are all of the candidates hoping to achieve by calling for the investigation so close to the fifth debate?
“It is critical that the Democratic National Committee make clear that they support survivors of sexual harassment and abuse by ensuring that Comcast and NBC News take steps to clean up the toxic culture that exists across their networks,” the letter states.
As four women lead the conversation in tonight's debate, we can surely expect that questions over the letter and the greater conversation around workplace harassment are bound to arise.