We are suddenly told that Matt Lauers is an abusive psychopath

(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at: lawrence@krubner.com

An interesting fact about this year is that a number of public figures behaved badly, and their bad behavior was well known, yet somehow any public recognition of their bad behavior was suppressed, for decades, until the very moment when their behavior was no longer suppressed, and then the details come out in an explosive manner. We’ve certainly seen that with Harvey Weinstein, who has now been accused of sexually inappropriate behavior by more than a hundred women. For many years, I’ve read comments online suggesting that Weinstein was a monster, but somehow those rumors didn’t build up to a public scandal, until this year.

Apparently the same is true with Matt Lauers, and I find that even more surprising, since he is such a public figure.

I read that his wife filed for divorce in 2006, and she was 7 months pregnant at the time:

Annette briefly filed for divorce in 2006, claiming she suffered “cruel and inhumane” treatment from Lauer, who she said in legal documents was controlling and demonstrated “extreme anger and hostility.” She withdrew the divorce filing a month later.

Another well-placed source insisted that the reason Annette withdrew her divorce filing is that Lauer offered her a post-nuptial agreement at the time of the filing, offering her up to a rumored $5 million deal to remain in the marriage.

A woman who is 7 months pregnant generally craves stability above all else, so the guy in question has to be a real nightmare to have a woman thinking about divorce at that moment.

Now she has apparently left. The multiple attempts to leave is consistent with what we know about abused women who are having trouble leaving an abusive relationship.

And Lauers’s misogyny was obvious on the television for years:

Hathaway tries to play it off as though he’s talking about her oversaturated press cycle, flashing her movie star smile in a determined way and saying, “I’d be happy to stay home, but the film.”

But Lauer is having none of it. “Let’s just get it out of the way. You had a little wardrobe malfunction the other night,” he says, raising his eyebrows meaningfully as Hathaway sits very still opposite him. “What’s the lesson learned from something like that? Other than that you keep smiling, which you always do.”

Hathaway’s response is remarkably graceful. “It was obviously an unfortunate incident,” she says. “It kind of made me sad on two accounts. One was that I was very sad that when we live in an age where someone takes a picture of another person in a vulnerable moment, and rather than delete it and do the decent thing, sells it. And I’m sorry that we live in a culture that commodifies the sexuality of unwilling participants. Which brings us back to Les Mis.”

I’m not sure which I find more surprising, that these “secrets” could be so public for so long, or that they finally became an issue for public reaction and scandal.

And there is the question of how it effects our public discourse, when men who are so profoundly corrupt control what we hear in film and on television both fiction (Weinstein) and non-fiction (Lauers):

Lauer’s influence at Today extended beyond his own interviews, according to Ramin Setoodeh and Elizabeth Wagmeister of Variety. “According to producers, Lauer — who had considerable editorial clout over which stories would ultimately air on ‘Today’ — would frequently dismiss stories about cheating husbands,” they write. They also note that Lauer was forced to cover the issue of sexual harassment after allegations against Roger Ailes and Harvey Weinstein became public, which “often made for awkward moments on TV for staff members who knew about Lauer’s private interactions.”

“We routinely underestimate what it means that our political system has been constructed and interpreted by men, that our expectations for politicians have been set by generations of male politicians and shaped by generations of male pundits,” Vox’s Ezra Klein wrote in October. Too many people also underestimate the way that disrespect for women in life — a refusal to respect their boundaries and their equality as colleagues — can infect a person’s work.

Journalists ordinarily take pains to avoid conflicts of interest, recusing themselves from covering people or stories to which they have a close personal connection. You could see the coverage of sexual assault and harassment by journalists who have committed such acts as a kind of conflict of interest — they have every reason to downplay the seriousness of allegations, and question the integrity of survivors, both to prevent their own misdeeds from coming to light and to convince themselves that what they’ve done is acceptable. The result is a media landscape all but designed to keep survivors quiet and perpetrators in power, not just within media but across society. It’s a testament to the strength and will of survivors that they have been able to speak up in this environment — and their reports are still discounted or dismissed.