Throwback to 2012 when Matt Lauer was the “real victim” of sexual harassment on the Today show ? pic.twitter.com/mYdnhEV2wv
— The Daily Show (@TheDailyShow) November 29, 2017
Just hours after it was announced that Matt Lauer was fired from the Today show over allegations of sexual impropriety, someone over at The Daily Show remembered a 2012 segment featuring a jokey, butt-swatting “controversy” involving Lauer and Willie Geist of Today and Morning Joe. The lighthearted investigation involved security footage of Geist tapping Lauer’s derrière (or lower back, depending on who was asked) with a sheaf of papers — a move Lauer responded to by patting Geist’s rear with his open palm.
Today‘s look into the “swat heard round the studio” comes complete with dramatic closeups of Lauer’s face and quavering piano music as he declares that the most difficult part of the whole encounter was losing touch with Geist. “Since it happened, he hasn’t called, he hasn’t written. Nothing,” Lauer said of the faux-fallout. When asked what the worst part was, he responded, “The abandonment.” Yet the piece ends with the Today team, including Geist sitting chummily on a large sofa, with Lauer and Geist bantering about the mutual butt patting that served as a soft primer on consent and workplace propriety.
Strangely, it was Dustin Hoffman who got in the last comment: “Did Willie swat him with his “Willie?” Of course, Hoffman is now dealing with his own allegations of sexual assault, including a complaint from Meryl Streep. The whole “investigative” segment feels terribly cringy five years later, a parody of the genuine — and far more severe– sexual harassment allegations now streaming out of Hollywood, news agencies, statehouses, the federal government, elite sports, and other industries.
It’s even more uncomfortable to watch knowing that Lauer and Hoffman were joking about behavior they are now in real trouble for. But then again, so much of the bad behavior under fire these days was hiding in plain sight — or even caught in audio footage. The climate on harassment has certainly heated up.