An NBCUniversal spokesperson said the company is not aware of any inquiry by the New York’s attorney general into allegations of sexual harassment, retaliation and gender discrimination.
The Daily Mail and Variety reported on an investigation on Tuesday, one day after it was announced that Andrew Lack, chairman of NBC News and MSNBC, would be departing the network at the end of the month.
Former NBC News anchor Linda Vester told the Daily Mail that she was one of the women who was interviewed as part of the investigation, and she said they wanted to know about any involvement that Lack had in claims of retaliation. In 2018, Vester accused NBC News stalwart Tom Brokaw of making unwanted sexual advances, something that he denied.
Variety spoke to three women, including Vester, who say they were questioned by the office, and it reported that a number of others also were interviewed. According to the publication, the probe also included an inquiry into allegations of retaliation against journalists who reported on air about assault and misconduct claims against Harvey Weinstein and Matt Lauer. The investigation was reported to have taken place over the span of months, but the status of the inquiry was unclear.
A spokesperson for New York Attorney General Letitia James declined to comment.
Lauer abruptly was fired as co-host of Today in November, 2017, but Lack and NBC News president Noah Oppenheim steadfastly have denied that they were aware of claims against him before then. The probe also interviewed a woman who claimed that she was harassed by former MSNBC host Chris Matthews and then faced retaliation, according to Variety. Matthews stepped down as host of MSNBC’s Hardball in March, after Laura Bassett wrote in GQ that he had “inappropriately flirted” with her before an appearance on his show, “making me noticeably uncomfortable on air.”
On Monday night, former NBC producer Rich McHugh told Tucker Carlson on Fox News that he was aware of a New York attorney general investigation.
“I have been looking into it for a story. It was the New York attorney general’s office civil division,” McHugh said. “We’re not sure if it could lead to anything criminal, but I do know they have been looking into this and interviewing employees over a number of months.” Carlson’s segment was about Lack’s departure.
McHugh worked with Ronan Farrow, who claims in his book Catch and Kill that the Weinstein story was killed because of pressure from Weinstein, including that he would reveal claims about Lauer, then one of the network’s star personalities.
When Catch and Kill was published, Lack and Oppenheim denied the claims. Lack said that Farrow “simply didn’t have a story that met our standard for broadcast nor that of any major news organization.” NBCUniversal’s legal team concluded that news division management was not aware of the allegations against Lauer until the night before he was terminated, but in the wake of the publication of Farrow’s book, there were calls for an independent investigation, including from MSNBC host Rachel Maddow.
Lack is being succeeded by Cesar Conde, who had been chairman of NBCUniversal International Group. He will oversee NBC News, MSNBC and CNBC.