Another high-profile man has fallen, post-Weinstein: On Wednesday morning it was announced that Matt Lauer, host of NBC’s The Today Show, has been accused of “inappropriate sexual behavior” by a colleague, and has been fired. (Lauer has yet to publicly respond to the allegations.) In the wake of this news, people quickly began sharing online one past example of Lauer behaving, well ... rather creepily towards a woman on camera:
In a 2012 Today Show interview with Anne Hathaway, who was then promoting what would eventually be her Oscar-winning turn in Les Misérables, Lauer had other, more pressing issues to discuss. Taking upskirt photos of unsuspecting female celebrities exiting cars had become a disgusting hobby for the paparazzi, something Hathaway had recently fallen victim to. Photographs of Hathaway stepping out of an SUV without underwear were being splashed around, and she was said to have been embarrassed and devastated over the incident.
So what did Matt Lauer do? He opened the interview by telling Hathaway, live on TV, that he’d “seen a lot of you lately.” Hathaway either didn’t pick up on his gross-sounding quip or decided to deftly dodge the question, answering, “Sorry about that. I’d be happy to stay home, but, the film.”
Lauer pressed on and became more direct: He asked her to describe the lesson she took away from having had her privacy invaded upon by exploitative photographers, magazines, and smug male TV hosts. He deftly worked both victim-blaming and “women should smile” into four short sentences:
Let’s just get it out of the way. You had a little wardrobe malfunction the other night. What’s the lesson learned from something like that? Other than that you keep smiling, which you’ll always do.
Hathaway handled his sexist ambush like a pro, saying that the incident made her sad to live in such an unfeeling and exploitative era, and breezily brought things back to the movie she had to promote. “I’m sorry that we live in a culture that commodifies sexuality of unwilling participants, which brings us back to Les Mis, because that’s what the character [Fantine] is. She is someone who is forced to sell sex to benefit her child because she has nothing and there’s no social safety net, so yeah—let’s get back to Les Mis.”
Perhaps (maybe) Lauer and other men like him who are facing these kinds of allegations are themselves learning something from this fallout—if not to respect women as human beings, then that at the very least, the age of impunity is coming to an end.