If the tone of Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb’s 7 a.m. Wednesday on-air revelation of Lauer’s NBC firing had been a mix of shock over their friend’s ouster and also support for the woman or women who had endured abuse or harassment, two hours later at 9 a.m. Kelly’s tone was markedly different.
Instead of a shocked and emotional testimonial (Guthrie said she was “heartbroken”), Kelly, who in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal has led many shows in recent weeks with victims of sexual harassment and abuse speaking about their experiences, was crisper and much more focused on the victims of sexual abuse and harassment than her friendship and professional relationship with an alleged perpetrator.
Like Guthrie, Kelly read out NBC News Chairman Andy Lack’s statement announcing Lauer’s termination following a “detailed complaint from a colleague about inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace by Matt Lauer,” as well as the likelihood of more revelations from women to come.
She also showed the tape of Guthrie and Kotb’s shocked reaction.
However, Kelly quickly made it clear whose side she was on, this after reports of tension between the two since Kelly’s arrival at NBC. Whether Lauer's dismissal means Kelly edging closer to hosting the 7-9 a.m. show, or being seen in that key segment, remains to be seen.
“This one does hit close to home,” Kelly said. “I too have known Matt for a long time, and he has been a friend and kind and supportive to me in my transition to NBC News, and I see the anguish on my colleagues’ faces.
“But when this happens what we don’t see is the pain on the faces of those who found the courage to come forward, and it is a terrifying thing to do. We don't see the career opportunities women lose because of sexual harassment, or the intense stress it causes a woman dealing with it when she comes to work each day. I am thinking of those women this morning and hoping they are OK. The days to come will not be easy.
“We are in the middle of sea change in this country, an empowerment revolution in which women who for years have felt they had no choice but to simply deal with being harassed at work are now starting to picture another reality, to feel that change is within their grasp."
Kelly placed Lauer’s firing in the context of the other high-profile sexual-harassment and abuse scandals over the last few months, including Charlie Rose’s recent ouster from CBS.
Kelly said, “As painful as this moment is for so many here at NBC today, at CBS earlier this month, at Fox News over the last year, in Hollywood this fall, it is a sign of progress—of women finding their voices, their courage, and of the erosion of a shameful power imbalance that has been in place for far too long.”
Kelly is relatively new to NBC News and the Today show, coming to the network from Fox News, which has been rocked by sexual harassment scandals.
Kelly herself accused Fox News Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes of sexual harassment in her memoir Settle For More, and later gave evidence to a team of lawyers hired by 21st Century Fox to investigate allegations made in the sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit filed by Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson.
On air at 9 a.m., she referred to this in her conclusion. “A final note: I have been at another news channel where this happened as you know, and my experience is a news organization is bigger than any one person. They all face challenges, they all stumble, but the good ones stay standing and forge forward, fulfilling their core mission: journalism.
“We’ll continue to stay on this story, and bring you more as we know it. Until then, on with the news.”