Aaron R. Davis
Forgive me if I’m repeating myself here, but I have never liked Matt Lauer. He parcels out soft news in sound bites to people who have the TV on in the background while they’re getting ready for work. It’s not like he’s doing the news. He’s doing human interest pap and interviewing whichever movie star is in New York to push a movie. It’s not journalism. It’s barely hosting a talk show. You know who hosted an honest to goodness talk show? Dick Cavett. Matt Lauer is just prompting Minnie Driver to remind everyone that About a Boy is a thing. When he’s not creepily asking Anne Hathaway about her vagina, that is.
Where were you on 9/11? I was at home with The Today Show on. I got to listen to Matt Lauer desperately, hungrily ask experts repeatedly how many people they think must have died in the World Trade Center. Keep in mind that this was less than an hour after the first plane hit. You could practically hear him hardening at the prospect of being the first to report numbers on an unfolding national tragedy, drunk on his own sense of importance to the daily lives of Americans, the prism through which all perspective on a national event would flow.
So yeah, I have no respect for Matt Lauer. He’s slimy and sleazy. So it was no surprise when he asked General Motors CEO Mary Barra if she could be both a good mom and a good CEO. Nor was it a surprise when he stupidly defended his tone-deaf question. Sure, Matt, you’d totally ask the same question of a male CEO. Would anyone ever think of asking Matt Lauer can be a good dad and spend all the time away from home he does hosting the Sochi Olympics and filming Where in the World Is Matt Lauer? in addition to PSAs about how fathers should be more involved in their children’s lives? Of course not: he’s a man, so who gives a shit, right?
And it was also no surprise that the Internet chose to seize on this single aspect of the situation and pick over it endlessly. Yes, people are right to be offended by that stupid question — and by the predictable amount of men claiming that women are taking things too seriously and explaining with dripping condescension why their justified indignation is actually itself the problem somehow.
But let’s consider that the reason he asked that question was that Mary Barra has already been out talking about how she’s a mom as well as a CEO and how she has kids that she will be held accountable by. If Matt Lauer were an actual journalist and not a corporate shill, instead of lobbing her a sexist softball, he would have called her on how she’s using that to look sympathetic and deflect from the actual reason she’s been doing so many interviews: GM’s role in 13 deaths linked to faulty GM vehicles.
Look, Internet, I know your heart is in the right place, but once again, you’re coming down hard in the wrong place. You’re demanding accountability from the guy who wouldn’t ask Jerry Sandusky’s wife what she knew, and not from the American car manufacturing giant who may or may not have covered up manufacturing problems that led to the recall of 10 million cars and a baker’s dozen of fatalities.
Way to shift the focus, social media.
Sure, I hate Matt Lauer. I think I hate him the most for making me write what I’m about to write: Tom Cruise was right. Matt Lauer is glib. And, again, I’m not saying you’re wrong to be offended by his stupid question. But maybe we could just take a deep breath, call him an asshole and then move on to demanding answers from a corporation whose product has actually helped kill people.
Maybe he could have asked her what her opinion is on an American company taking the progressive step of hiring a female CEO at a time when it desperately needed to score points with the public in order to, say, distract from a controversy over a major automotive recall. Maybe he could have asked her whether she thought it was interesting that GM hired a female CEO just in time to take the heat for what the previous male CEOs may or may not have had a hand in.
But, of course, all of these are questions that a news figure might ask. And in case I didn’t make this clear earlier, Matt Lauer is an entertainment figure. Stop confusing the two.
But hey, at least we’re having another useless debate over sexism in popular culture that’s totally going to get resolved in some comments section somewhere.
Aaron R. Davis lives in a cave at the bottom of the ocean with his eyes shut tight and his fingers in his ears. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org