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POINT OF VIEW: Apology is no balm; sex charges must have consequences

Here we go again. But regardless of how many lawyers and public relations teams draft a mea culpa statement for their powerful clients, apologies for “sexually inappropriate behavior” in the workplace are not going to wipe away the consequences of such conduct.

It may well be accurate that Matt Lauer is “embarrassed and ashamed,” but the truth is he is sorry only that he got caught. He had no “sorrow and regret” beforehand, and would have continued blithely hosting “Today” if the victim and her attorney had not met with NBC News officials the evening of Nov. 27 to present solid evidence against Lauer for “sexually inappropriate behavior.”

The “sorry” appeal is akin to the “boys will be boys” defense, one of the many valid reasons women do not report rapes. “Sexually inappropriate behavior” also soft-pedals the assault itself. As comedian Jimmy Fallon asks: Does that mean there is “sexually appropriate” behavior in the workplace?

Lauer managed to slip into his mea culpa a self-serving, “Some of what is being said about me is untrue or mischaracterized.” That’s lawyer-speak to serve up to a jury in case of these allegations go to court. In fact, Lauer is alleged to have raped one of his staff members, to the point she passed out in his office. Is that behavior NBC’s definition of “sexually inappropriate?” Does that mean Lauer is less guilty of the assault? No. That phrase is meant to soften the image of Lauer and his ilk from the realities of sexual assault. It’s a version of blaming the victim, a tried and true stance taken by most rapists. She wore sexy underwear, doesn’t that mean she was asking for it?

NBC’s position that its “current management” knew nothing about any such allegations against Lauer until that Monday evening meeting also ring hollow. In the real world, NBC knew a storm was brewing with The New York Times and Variety getting their ducks in a row to break the Lauer story. That is why NBC quickly fired Lauer. Better to avoid being “beat” by their news competitors than to hold off with the “suspended pending investigation” delay tactic.

And let’s not compare the Lauer/Rose/Weinstein/Cosby/O’Reilly/Moore attacks to the consensual President Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky to-do, which was never a “he said, she said” case. Do not take this as a defense of Clinton’s “sexually inappropriate behavior,” but do remember that Lewinsky, upon meeting Clinton on an introductory tour of the West Wing staff, turned her back to him and flipped up her suit jacket to reveal her thong underwear. Until he lied about their sex life in the Oval Office, that mess was Hillary Clinton’s problem, not the country’s.


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