Matt Lauer might get a $30 million payout from NBC, and WTF?
Update — 12/01/17 2:00 p.m. PST: Variety reports that, according to an NBC News staff member, the network will not be paying Matt Lauer this settlement.
In news that will make your blood boil, Page Six is reporting that Matt Lauer’s lawyers are working on a $30 million payout for the fired NBC employee. Yes, after being fired from NBC for inappropriate sexual behavior, there’s a chance that Lauer could walk away from this scandal an even richer man.
On November 30th, just a day after Lauer was fired, Page Six reported that, according to unnamed sources, the TV journalist’s team is attempting to have NBC pay him the remainder of his contract. Just last year, Fortune reported that Lauer signed a two-year contract with NBC. This contract maintained his salary of $20 million a year, which he reportedly began earning in 2014. That salary made Lauer one of the highest-paid TV anchors, as Time reported.
With a year and a half left in the contract, Lauer’s lawyers are seeing whether he’s entitled to the remaining $30 million. Page Six reported that a “source close to Lauer’s team” said:
"They are currently looking at his contract and determining whether the claims against him, which clearly would affect any moral clause in his contract and his ensuing termination, would cut off his contractual rights to be paid through to the end of his contract."
This report from Page Six is based on an unnamed source, but if it turns out to be true, it’s disheartening, partly because another recently disgraced TV journalist also received a payout after being fired — none other than Bill O’Reilly.
After O’Reilly was fired from Fox News for sexual misconduct, the Los Angeles Times reported that he would still receive one year’s salary — $25 million. O’Reilly’s case is even more despicable because, as Variety reported, Fox gave him a $25 million per year contract, a salary increase of $5 million, even though the network was aware that sexual assault allegations had been made against him. According to CNN, Fox said they knew O’Reilly had settled an allegation out of court when they re-upped his contract, but they did not know the settlement amount was an astounding $32 million.
O’Reilly’s case brings up the question of a network’s accountability when it comes to these scandals. For instance, USA Today reported that people are doubting that NBC chief Andy Lack didn’t know about Lauer’s alleged behavior. As journalism professor Mark Feldstein told USA Today,
"What's missing in coverage of most media scandals, sex harassment or otherwise, is a willingness to confront systemic causes that led to the scandal, including the culpability of management in allowing scandals to take place."
But while there may be no need to feel sorry for NBC if they do have to pay Lauer $30 million, it still feels unjust that Lauer would receive money for time not worked when he was fired for such despicable alleged acts, like assaulting one woman to the point where she passed out from the trauma, and reportedly having a button installed under his desk that allowed him to lock his office door without getting up (although an NBC employee commented anonymously to say the latter is common in offices of high-profile staff members).
While Lauer’s payout is far from official yet, the fact that it’s being discussed shows how deep corruption can go. If that money could be translated into something that would help Lauer’s many alleged victims, only then we’d be making some actual improvements in how we handle sexual assault.