Fierce

NBC Says It Will Release The NDAs That Sexual Harassment Survivors Were Forced To Sign

Rachel Maddow announced NBCUniversal will release former employees who experienced sexual harassment and misconduct from non-disclosure and non-disparagement agreements. The decision marks a huge victory for survivors. Ronan Farrow revealed in his book, Catch and Kill, that NBC went through great lengths to suppress and cover up sexual harassment allegations against Matt Lauer and other executives. 

“There was a pattern at [NBC] in terms of women making allegations against Matt Lauer and of being paid off and signing away their rights to speak about it all before he was fired,” Maddow said on her show.

While the network vehemently denies the claims in Farrow’s book, Maddow, whose show airs on MSNBC, dedicated an entire episode to interviewing Farrow and even independently corroborated some of his reporting. 

NBCUniversal announces it will release some former employees from NDAs.

“Any former NBC News employee who believes that they cannot disclose their experience with sexual harassment as a result of a confidentiality or non-disparagement provision in their separation agreement should contact NBCUniversal and we will release them from that perceived obligation,” a spokesperson for NBCUniversal said in a statement

In Farrow’s book, the journalist revealed that NBC had made at least seven women sign non-disclosure agreements, some of who filed sexual misconduct complaints about the Today Show host Matt Lauer. 

“Several of the women who signed the nondisclosure agreements had complaints that were unrelated to Lauer, about other men in leadership positions within NBC News,” Farrow wrote, while some of the other agreements “called into question the network’s claim that it had known nothing about women’s allegations against Lauer.”

The revelation contradicted the network, who claimed in 2017, that their internal investigation found that there were no other claims or settlements regarding allegations against Lauer.  

Maddow calls out her NBC employers on her show. 

“I have been through a lot of ups and downs in this company since I’ve been here. It would be impossible to overstate the amount of consternation around this issue,” Maddow said. “But accusations that people in positions of authority in this building may have been complicit in some way of shielding those guys from accountability, those accusations are very, very hard to stomach.”

Maddow was able to confirm Farrow’s reporting that NBC tried to obstruct his article on Harvey Weinstein’s sexual assault allegations. 

“We have independently confirmed that NBC News did that,” Maddow told viewers. “That did happen. He was told to pause his reporting.”

The day before Farrow’s book was published NBC News’ president Noah Oppenheim published a letter pre-emptively denying the allegations. 

“Farrow alleges there were employees who reported Lauer’s behavior prior to November of 2017 and were paid settlements to silence them,” said Noah Oppenheim, NBC News’ president, in a memo to staff. “Not only is this false, the so-called evidence Farrow uses in his book to support the charge collapses under the slightest scrutiny.”

Farrow praises NBC’s decision to release former employees from their NDAs.

“I think this will go a long way towards making them feel that they can discuss this openly,” Farrow told Maddow on her show.

Non-disclosure agreements are typically used to protect proprietary business information but can be weaponized against sexual misconduct victims by forcing them into silence with the threat of legal action. 

Farrow has maintained for years that NBC executives ordered him to shut down his groundbreaking reporting about the misconduct allegations against Weinstein because Weinstein threatened to publicly expose the allegations against Lauer. 

“This is a documented pattern of secret settlements in this company,” he told Maddow.

Lauer was fired in 2017 by MSNBC when a colleague filed a complaint accusing him of sexual harassment during the 2014 Sochi Olympics. Two additional women filed reports following his dismissal. Lauer still denies any allegations. 

Farrow alleges NBC had at least seven women sign NDAs.

In one case, Farrow wrote that one unnamed on-air personality signed an NDA in 2012, alleging that, “NBC sought the deal after she showed colleagues messages she took to be propositions, from both Lauer and one of the senior executives who later departed the company.” 

Farrow says the woman didn’t file a formal complaint in fear of retaliation that would harm her career. In another incident, Farrow spoke to a former producer who alleges Lauer exposed his erect penis to her at the office in 2010. Catch and Kill claims that the woman told Ann Curry, Lauer’s co-host, who alerted senior executives that Lauer had a “problem with women,” and they should “keep an eye on him.” 

“Ronan Farrow continues his attempt to monetize the MeToo movement, using salacious allegations as promotional trinkets to sell his book. Matt never exposed himself to anyone,” Lauer’s attorney Libby Locke told NBC News. 

Lauer denies all allegations, while NBCUniversal maintains there were no other claims or settlements regarding Lauer. 

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