Katie Couric may have worked alongside Matt Lauer for 15 years on Today, but she never imagined that her co-anchor could have done anything like the actions that led to his abrupt firing in November.
When Couric spoke at the Wrap’s Power Women Breakfast on sexual harassment in the industry, she revealed what she would say to her former Today co-host, whether she had any idea of Matt’s sexual harassment at NBC, and if she herself had experience any sort of sexual harassment when she had worked at Today.
Speaking on Sunday in Austin as part of the SXSW Film Festival, Couric credits being in a “position of power” in her early days the reason why she was never harassed, as so many other women have been.
However, she does admit having worked in “sexist environments” and even environments that “marginalized” women, so Matt Lauer’s sexual harassment firing “hit close to home.”
Kate Couric describes having a “wonderful working relationship” with Matt Lauer. According to E! News, in 1998, one year after Matt Lauer replace long-time anchor Bryant Gumbel, “5.26 million people a day were turning in” to Today.
Couric and Lauer’s audience enjoyed 2 million more viewers than the second-place Good Morning America.
Couric was asked what she would say if she ever ran into Lauer, which presumably she has yet to since his firing.
Her response was almost like a school teacher looking down at a naughty student. She revealed that she would ask him if he understood that his actions were “wrong,” with the hope that he had done some soul searching into how his behavior with junior staffers got him in trouble, hurt others, embarrassed his family, and tarnished his good name.
“I hope he’s trying to figure out and understand his behavior and why he did it and why it was so wrong.”
As shocked as Katie Couric was over Matt Lauer’s alleged behavior that led to being fired by NBC, she points out that as horrible as this was, Lauer is “not the only one” who has acted in the same way.
“It’s shocking, honestly, and disturbing, disorienting, disheartening — all of those d-words. But I think, he’s not the only one who behaves in this way. People all over the place… have participated in this kind of behavior, that have used their power in an exploitative and unacceptable way.”
Katie Couric explained that this sort of behavior in the media has been “tolerated” over the years, even “accepted.” Now, she believes that the way the culture must shift is to include women in the “management structure.” She believes this balance of men and women will reduce the “toxic masculinity” that breeds this sort of secretive behavior, which she was not aware was happening when she worked on Today.