Katie Couric wasn’t ready to discuss what happened with Matt Lauer and “Today” until now, and partly finally spoke to People magazine this weekend because she knew she might be asked the question on Saturday at the Television Critics Association press tour.
“Some people have pressured, borderline bullied me to try to talk about this,” she told IndieWire. “We don’t give people a chance to think, and we expect and demand an instantaneous reaction to anything that goes on. I think I’ve always been well served by stepping back, thinking, trying to comprehend a situation and speaking when I’m ready.”
Beyond her brief statement to People magazine, Couric said she’s “been doing a lot of thinking, a lot of talking with former colleagues and a lot of writing about this. I’ll probably have more to say about it in the future. Yes, it’s been really hard for me to wrap my head around. Disturbing, and disconcerting and disappointing. It’s really shaken me.”
Asked about why the news business has been particularly rocked by sexual harassment scandals — witness the exits of Lauer, Bill O’Reilly, and Charlie Rose, among many others — Couric pointed out that it’s a problem that spreads far beyond the news biz, but “it happens to be much more visible.”
“People know people who are in the news business,” she said. “I guarantee you it’s happening in workplaces all across the country. On factory floors, in retail operations, in Hollywood and Silicon Valley. It’s happened everywhere. What’s exciting about this is this is a long overdue cultural course correction… somehow workplaces have gotten so much more informal. And in some ways that’s great but in other ways, it’s blurred boundaries. And also work has become a place where they spend so much time that their social lives and their professional lives have overlapped. It’s time to reinstate some decorum and talk about how we treat each other and the rules of engagement and how we treat each other. Just remind everybody it’s not OK and there’s a certain code of conduct that should be adhered to not only at work but in life in general. This is a wakeup call for everyone.”
Lauer, of course, was fired in November after multiple accounts of sexual harassment inside NBC News. Couric anchored “Today” with Lauer for 15 years before she departed in 2006. Here’s the comment Couric made to People regarding Lauer’s exit:
The whole thing has been very painful for me. The accounts I’ve read and heard have been disturbing, distressing and disorienting and it’s completely unacceptable that any woman at the Today show experienced this kind of treatment.
I had no idea this was going on during my tenure or after I left. I think I speak for many of my former colleagues when I say this was not the Matt we knew. Matt was a kind and generous colleague who treated me with respect. In fact, a joke I once made on late-night television [“Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen” in 2012] was just that, because it was completely contrary to our brother-sister relationship. It’s still very upsetting. I really admire the way Savannah [Guthrie] and Hoda [Kotb] and the entire Today show staff have handled a very difficult situation.