Ronn Torossian
Ronn Torossian

As more information is released in the ongoing investigation of former anchor Matt Lauer, NBC and its leadership are now being called to account for allegations of fomenting or permitting outright “culture of harassment.” While previous headlines, and Lauer himself, have put all the blame for the allegations squarely on the anchor, now that narrative is shifting to include several people in decision-making positions at the news network.

NBC is firing back at these statements, doubling down on its long-held position that Lauer alone was at fault for his behavior. Several women, including former “Today Show” anchor Ann Curry, complained of Lauer’s behavior, with some of the women accusing him of “flirtatious behavior” and “sexual banter” while on the clock, and others accusing the anchor of using his power and influence to attempt to engage them in relationships.

While NBC’s narrative is that Lauer was entirely responsible, these women, including Curry, say they’re not about to let NBC off so easily. Curry reported in several interviews that she’d “gone to management” about Lauer long before any of these allegations were made public, speaking about his behavior directed at another woman. Other women who later complained about Lauer also said they thought “someone in management” was in the know and on the case. As it turns out, that was not so. No one in management at NBC said or did anything publicly until well after the allegations against Lauer were made public.

NBC’s investigation tells a different story. According to that inquiry, no one “with any authority” at the network knew about Lauer’s relationships until the story broke about an affair with Lauer that began back in 2014. That report, too, has been met with criticism from outside the company. Many are saying the news organization took the wrong tack in not allowing “outsiders” to conduct an investigation into the ongoing allegations, both against Lauer and other leadership.

At this point, these critics admit the company isn’t required to bring anyone else into what it considers a “company problem.” That’s an accurate statement, but it might not matter much to consumers when they choose who to watch for their news. If NBC sets itself up as not being forthcoming about issue within the company — especially if more women come forward alleging executives ignored their complaints against Lauer, — this could create another wave of negative PR for the network, and one that takes the attention off Lauer and changes the narrative from one rogue anchor to a “systemic issue.”

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Ronn Torossian is CEO of 5WPR, one of America’s leading independent PR firms.