PREVIOUSLY, 8:33 AM: NBC’s Today show tiptoed through talk with gold-medal winner Shaun White about resurfaced sexual harassment allegations made against him by his former bandmate Lena Zawaideh after his Olympics gold-medal win Wednesday morning.
At an Olympics presser following his gold medal win, snowboarder White had dismissed the allegations as “gossip” and said he was there to talk about his medal win; he declined to take any more questions on the subject at the presser.
According to published reports, White has not denied sending lewd text messages to the former drummer of his band, later reaching a settlement.
“Not all the headlines today have been positive, as you have been aware,” Today‘s Savannah Guthrie told White in a live interview from Pyeongchang, by way of seguing to the subject. “A lawsuit filed against you a couple years ago by your former drummer has been resurfacing,” Guthrie added, for the sake of viewers back home.
“I’m truly sorry I chose the word ‘gossip.’ It was a poor choice of words to describe a sensitive subject in the world today and I’m truly sorry,” White responded. He attributed his choice of words to having been “so overwhelmed with wanting to talk about how amazing the day was and share my experience.”
He did not address the allegations. “It’s difficult and I take no pleasure in asking it,” Guthrie continued, apologetically, as White nodded and “umhmmmm-ed” composedly.
“But is there anything you want to say? Do you feel like you learned something from it, or are you acknowledging….,” Guthrie trailed off as she ran out of suggested responses to her question.
“I’ve grown as a person over the years. It’s amazing,” White marveled, of his growth.
“You’ve known me a long time now,” he told Guthrie, who, in November, got elected to announce on-air the firing of her co-host Matt Lauer after a sexual-misconduct review.
“It’s amazing how life works, and the twists and turns and lessons learned. So every experience in my life, I feel like it’s taught me a lesson,” White assured Guthrie. “And I definitely feel like a much more changed person than I was when I was younger. And I’m proud of who I am today, and I’m, yeah.”
Here is today’s statement from Lena Zawaideh’s attorney, Lawrence Bohm of the Bohm Group:
“Yesterday, Shaun White used the word “gossip” to refer to the past sexual harassment lawsuit by his former drummer Lena Zawaideh, our client. There are powerful forces at play which prevent Ms. Zawaideh from speaking about the allegations and ultimate outcome of the sexual harassment case.
Before Mr. White made his comment, Ms. Zawaideh believed that this matter was in the past, and she was happy to put the situation behind her so she can focus on her blossoming music career. Unfortunately, by his recent comments and conduct, Mr. White has minimized the problem of sexual harassment in this country.
Mr. White’s comments, on the world stage, directly impugn the character of Ms. Zawaideh. No woman wants to be called a “gossip” or a liar by the harasser. Minimizing sexual harassment maximizes the harm to Ms. Zawaideh. Hopefully, before our country declares someone “the best of the U.S.,” there will be investigation and due diligence.”