A day before MSNBC hosts the next Democratic primary debate, presidential hopefuls Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Cory Booker and Kamala Harris are asking for an independent investigation into NBC News.
The four Democratic presidential candidates have signed a letter organized by advocacy group UltraViolet asking that NBCUniversal be held accountable for recent sexual misconduct allegations documented in Ronan Farrow’s book “Catch and Kill.” The organization sent the letter to the Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez on Tuesday in advance of MSNBC’s presentation of the Democratic primary debate.
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NBC News did not immediately respond to Variety’s request for comment.
In the letter, the four candidates called the sexual assault and harassment allegations and management’s response “deeply troubling.” They asked that NBCUniversal parent company Comcast conduct an independent investigation, but they stop short of threatening to skip Wednesday’s debate if Comcast declines to comply.
“We, the undersigned candidates, are very concerned about the message it would send to sexual assault survivors if our next debate is sponsored by MSNBC without clear commitments from Comcast, the parent company of NBC and MSNBC, to conduct an independent investigation into the toxic culture that enabled abusers and silenced survivors,” the letter states.
Farrow reports in his book that NBC News president Noah Oppenheim halted his investigation into Harvey Weinstein in part out of concerns that Weinstein would leak damaging allegations about then-“Today” host Matt Lauer. Farrow’s book also includes details of the allegation that Lauer raped an NBC staffer in 2014 — the incident that led to his firing in November 2017. Lauer has denied the allegation and said the sexual encounter was consensual. Oppenheim and NBC News have vehemently denied many of Farrow’s allegations about his reporting on Weinstein for NBC News and other matters raised in the book.
The publication of “Catch and Kill” last month led to UltraViolet organizing a small protest outside of NBC Headquarters last month, handing the company a petition asking for the ousting of Oppenheim and MSNBC President Phil Griffin, among other demands.
In the letter to the DNC, the four presidential candidates said that a previous internal investigation conducted by NBCUniversal last year was insufficient and failed to hold executives to account.
“The troubling reports about management’s role to cover up abuse demonstrate that Comcast should have and needs to do more to shift the work culture and pursue significant structural changes in order to prevent future harassment and abuse at NBC and MSNBC,” the letter states.
“Current and former NBC Universal employees have courageously put their livelihoods on the line to demand change and accountability. UltraViolet and our 1.2 million members have their backs, and we are proud to say that Senator Cory Booker, Senator Bernie Sanders, Senator Kamala Harris and Senator Elizabeth Warren have their backs too,” said Shaunna Thomas, executive director of UltraViolet. “Everyone on the side of survivors has a role to play in using their influence to push Comcast and NBC to do the right thing. The DNC has leverage as a critical media partner in the 2020 election and they owe it to survivors to use it.”
The letter closes with a plea to the DNC to urge NBC News to address what the candidates describe as a “toxic culture” at the division.
“It is critical that the Democratic National Committee make clear that they support survivors of sexual harassment and abuse by ensuring that Comcast and NBC News take steps to clean up the toxic culture that exists across their networks,” the letter states.
Read a copy of the letter below:
November 18, 2019
Tom Perez, Chair
Democratic National Committee
430 South Capitol Street, SE
Washington, DC 20003
Dear Chairman Perez:
The latest allegations of sexual assault and harassment by former NBC employees perpetrated by NBC executives and on-air talent as well as a cover-up by NBC’s management are deeply troubling.
We, the undersigned candidates, are very concerned about the message it would send to sexual assault survivors if our next debate is sponsored by MSNBC without clear commitments from Comcast, the parent company of NBC and MSNBC, to conduct an independent investigation into the toxic culture that enabled abusers and silenced survivors.
NBC’s internal investigation last year ultimately concluded that because there were no formal complaints, NBC News executives were not at fault. Yet, there is clearly something wrong with a work environment reluctant to hold management accountable. That’s what allowed the behavior of powerful abusers inside the company to go unchecked. The troubling reports about management’s role to cover up abuse demonstrate that Comcast should have and needs to do more to shift the work culture and pursue significant structural changes in order to prevent future harassment and abuse at NBC and MSNBC. Until that happens, employees are at risk.
Donald Trump has been credibly accused of sexual harassment and sexual abuse by dozens of women. We, as a party, have to offer voters a clear and unquestionable difference come November when it comes to these important issues. We can not do that when we prop up and support companies that have systematically covered up numerous incidents of sexual violence with no accountability or changes of leadership.
It is critical that the Democratic National Committee make clear that they support survivors of sexual harassment and abuse by ensuring that Comcast and NBC News take steps to clean up the toxic culture that exists across their networks.
Senator Cory Booker
Senator Kamala Harris
Senator Bernie Sanders
Senator Elizabeth Warren
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