2020 Democrats on ‘toxic culture’ at NBC, urging DNC to hold network accountable for sex assault claims

In this Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019 photo, preparations for the Democratic presidential primary debate are underway before Wednesday’s debate in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Amis)

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UPDATED 11:03 AM PT — Wednesday, November 20, 2019

As final debate preparations get underway at MSNBC, four candidates who will be on that stage are taking a stand against sexual assault. Sen. Cory Booker, Sen. Kamala Harris, Sen. Bernie Sanders, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren signed a letter to the Democratic National Committee (DNC) Tuesday, asking it to ensure that NBC will be held accountable for the assault allegations that have plagued the network.

Those allegations stem from incidents involving former “Today Show” host Matt Lauer. He was infamously fired in 2017 after a former NBC employee accused him of raping her in 2014 when the two were covering the Sochi Olympics. Lauer has denied those allegations, and claimed their relationship was consensual.

This Nov. 8, 2017 photo released by NBC shows Matt Lauer on the set of the “Today” show in New York. (Nathan Congleton/NBC via AP)

These claims and others are laid out in journalist and former NBC employee Ronan Farrow’s latest book “Catch and Kill,” which also details assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein. Farrow met with several Weinstein accusers, even getting some to go on record with their allegations. However, he has claimed the story never made it to air on NBC because the network tried to kill it.

“There’s a paper trail of the shutting down of the story…that includes Noah Oppenheim, the president of NBC News, on six occasions ordering us to stop reporting,” said Farrow. “The head of the investigating unit underneath him ordering eight times to stop reporting..that eventually led us to cancel interviews.”

NBC has tried to recover from both scandals. It conducted an internal investigation, ultimately concluding its executives were not guilty of a cover-up and shouldn’t be blamed. It also released employees from their confidentiality agreements if they claim they were sexually harassed.

With millions of Americans now expected to tune into MSNBC for Wednesday’s primary debate, candidates say the network needs to promise it will investigate the so-called “toxic culture” that enabled abusers and silenced survivors. If the network fails to so, they say it would send the wrong message to the millions of sexual assault survivors around the world.

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