- Ronan Farrow’s new book, Catch and Kill, includes an interview with Brooke Nevils, who accused Matt Lauer of raping her in 2014 during the Sochi Olympics.
- Lauer was fired in 2017 over an unspecified sexual misconduct claim, but this is the first time specifics about the alleged assault have been released.
- NBC News and TODAY Show anchors responded by saying they were appalled by the news.
- Meanwhile, Lauer defended himself by saying all of his relations with Nevils were consensual.
Farrow’s Book Reveals Rape Allegation
An NBC colleague accused former TODAY Show anchor Matt Lauer of rape in Ronan Farrow’s upcoming book.
Back in 2017, Lauer was fired from his position for alleged sexual misconduct. No details about the claim were made clear at the time. Farrow’s book, Catch and Kill, will now provide the first detailed explanation of the alleged assault.
Catch and Kill is not out yet, but Variety received an advance copy of it and reported on the account about Lauer. Farrow interviewed the accuser, Brooke Nevils, who says that incident happened while she was working for Meredith Vieira while in Sochi covering the 2014 Olympics.
Nevils and Vieira were at the hotel bar when they ran into Lauer. Nevils had six shots of vodka before going to Lauer’s room on two separate occasions. The first was to get her press credential that he jokingly took, and the second was because he invited her back. She told Farrow she “had no reason to suspect Lauer would be anything but friendly based on prior experience.”
When she got there, however, he pushed her against the door kissing her, and then pushed her onto the bed. According to Farrow’s book, he flipped her over “asking if she liked anal sex.”
“She said that she declined several times,” the report continues. Nevils “was in the midst of telling him she wasn’t interested again when he ‘just did it.’”
The report also details the specifics of the incident, which are incredibly disturbing. Nevils recounted the experience as “excruciatingly painful.” She added that at some point, she stopped saying no a wept silently into a pillow. Afterward, Lauer asked her if she liked it and she told him “yes.”
“It was nonconsensual in the sense that I was too drunk to consent,” Nevils told Farrow. “It was nonconsensual in that I said, multiple times, that I didn’t want to have anal sex.”
Farrow goes on to say that the two did have sexual encounters with one another after the fact. Farrow noted that this was a common occurrence he heard from the numerous other women he had interviewed who shared similar stories of assault.
“This is what I blame myself most for,” Nevils said to Farrow. “It was completely transactional. It was not a relationship.”
NBC’s Handling of the Allegation
On top of these allegations against Lauer, Farrow’s book also details the way NBC handled them. Nevils said that after their encounters had ended, she told several people within the company. Nothing ever happened until Farrow’s bombshell report on Harvey Weinstein led to a cultural reckoning in 2017, prompting her colleagues asked her about Lauer.
Nevils then told Vieira about what happened. Vieira advised her to go to HR with a lawyer, which Nevils did.
Once Lauer was fired, Nevils learned that executives at NBC News were looking to paint the incident as not being criminal or an assault. Learning this made her throw up.
Nevils also said that HR promised she would remain anonymous. Still, many were able to figure out she was the one who filed the complaint as an internal memo contained details specific enough for people to connect the dots.
Despite the fact that Nevils insisted she did not want money, she went on medical leave in 2018. Farrow says NBC paid her seven figures.
NBC and TODAY Respond
NBC responded to the news in a statement that aired on the TODAY Show Wednesday morning.
“Matt Lauer’s conduct was appalling, horrific and reprehensible, as we said at the time,” the statement read. “That’s why he was fired within 24 hours of us first learning of the complaint. Our hearts break again for our colleague.”
TODAY Show anchors and former colleagues of Lauer, Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb, also responded to the news on air.https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js
“I feel like we owe it to our viewers to pause for a moment,” Guthrie said after a news package detailing the allegation aired.
“You know, this is shocking and appalling and I honestly don’t even know what to say about it,” she added. “I want to say that we know it wasn’t easy for our colleague to come forward then, it’s not easy now, and we support her and any women who have come forward with claims.”
“There are not allegations of an affair. There are allegations of a crime,” Kotb later added. “And I think that’s shocking to all of us here who have sat with Matt for many, many years.”
Matt Lauer Responds
Lauer also responded to the allegations on Wednesday morning in an open letter. The Hollywood Reporter obtained the letter via a legal representative of Lauer’s and published it in full.
“Over the past two years people have asked why I have not spoken out to defend myself more vigorously against some of the false and salacious allegations leveled at me,” he said in the letter’s opening. “It is a fair question and the answer is deeply personal.”
“But my silence has been a mistake,” he added.
He then insisted that everything that happened between him and Nevils was fully consensual.
“In a new book, it is alleged that an extramarital, but consensual, sexual encounter I have previously admitted having, was in fact an assault. It is categorically false, ignores the facts, and defies common sense,” Lauer wrote.
He said that “each act was mutual and completely consensual.” He also said that as their encounters continued, at no time “did she express in words or actions any discomfort with being there, or with our affair.”
Catch and Kill comes out on October 15.
See what others are saying: (Variety) (The Hollywood Reporter) (NBC News)
Supreme Court Sides With High School Cheerleader Punished for Cursing on Snapchat
The justices ruled that the student’s year-long suspension from her school’s cheer team over an expletive-filled Snapchat was too severe because her post was not disruptive.
SCOTUS Rules in Free Speech Case
The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that a Pennsylvania school district violated the First Amendment when it handed a cheerleader a year-long suspension from her team after she sent friends an expletive-filled Snapchat outside school grounds.
The case in question centered around a snap sent in 2017 by now-18-year-old Brandi Levy in which she expressed frustration at not making her high school’s varsity cheer squad. The snap, sent on a Saturday from a convenience store, shows Levy and a friend flipping off the camera with the caption: “F— school, f— softball, f— cheer, f— everything.”
That post was sent to around 250 people, including other cheerleaders at her school. When her coaches were alerted to the post, they suspended her from cheerleading for a year.
Levy and her family, represented by lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union, sued the school district, arguing that it had no right to punish her for off-campus speech.
A federal appeals court agreed with that argument, ruling that schools could not regulate speech outside school grounds. That decision marked the first time that an appeals court had issued such a broad interpretation of the Supreme Court’s landmark 1969 student speech ruling.
In that case, SCOTUS allowed students to wear black armbands in protest of the Vietnam War, declaring that they do not “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.”
The high court did specify that disruptive speech on school grounds could be punished.
Off-Campus Speech Questions Left Unresolved
In Wednesday’s decision, the justices agreed that Levy’s punishment was too severe because her speech did not meet the test of being disruptive. However, they did not uphold the appeals court decision that schools never have a role in disciplining students for off-campus speech.
“The school’s regulatory interests remain significant in some off-campus circumstances,” Justice Stephen Breyer wrote in the opinion for the court’s majority. “Thus, we do not now set forth a broad, highly general First Amendment rule stating just what counts as ‘off campus’ speech and whether or how ordinary First Amendment standards must give way off campus.”
Breyer also added that specific question would be left for “future cases.”
In the sole dissent, Justice Clarence Thomas objected to that approach, arguing that Levy’s language met the threshold for speech that is disruptive and thus can be regulated off-campus based on past precedent. His colleagues’ ruling, he wrote, “is untethered from anything stable, and courts (and schools) will almost certainly be at a loss as to what exactly the court’s opinion today means.”
Both opinions are significant because while the majority decision focused more narrowly on whether the speech, in this case, was disruptive, the justices appear to be opening up space for a case that centers more specifically around the power of schools to regulate student speech off-campus.
Still, Levy and the ACLU cheered the decision as a victory for student speech off-campus, despite the court’s lack of ruling on the subject.
“Young people need to have the ability to express themselves without worrying about being punished when they get to school,” Levy said in a statement.
“The school in this case asked the court to allow it to punish speech that it considered ‘disruptive,’ regardless of where it occurs,” ACLU’s legal director David Cole added in separate remarks. “If the court had accepted that argument, it would have put in peril all manner of young people’s speech, including their expression on politics, school operations, and general teen frustrations.”
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (NPR) (The Associated Press)
Biden To Outline Actions Aimed at Combatting the Recent Rise in Violent Crime and Gun Violence
The president’s orders come the same day the Associated Press released data showing that a record number of gun sales were stopped last year because of background checks.
President Biden Issues Orders on Violent Crime Rise
President Biden will outline several actions on Wednesday that his administration plans to take to curb the recent rise in violent crime and gun violence.
That includes tougher enforcement policies for federal gun control laws, as well as new guidelines for how cities and states can use COVID-19 relief funds to combat gun violence. For instance, those guidelines will allow for the hiring of more police officers, paying officers overtime, buying equipment, and funding additional “enforcement efforts.”
Biden’s plan also includes investing in community-based intervention programs for both potential perpetrators and potential victims of gun violence and helping felons adjust to housing and work after leaving prison.
Background Checks Stop Record Number of Sales
Hours ahead of Biden’s announcement, the Associated Press reported that background checks blocked a record 300,000 gun sales last year, according to newly obtained FBI data provided by a nonprofit that advocates for gun control.
In fact, the numbers are staggering compared to previous years. For example, background checks that successfully blocked gun sales last year amounted to nearly twice that of 2019.
Notably, about 42% of those blocked sales were explicitly because would-be buyers had felony convictions on their records.
Still, it’s important to note that these stats don’t necessarily mean less guns are being successfully bought. While the rate of barred buyers has increased somewhat from around 0.6% to 0.8% since 2018, the U.S. also saw a record number of gun sales last year.
Nearly 23 million guns were bought in 2020 alone, according to the consulting firm Small Arms Analytics. Alongside that record, the country saw another record when it came to the rate of gun violence.
Because of that, Everytown for Gun Safety — the group that gave the AP the new background check data — reiterated its belief in the need for stronger gun control regulation.
“There’s no question that background checks work, but the system is working overtime to prevent a record number of people with dangerous prohibitors from being able to buy firearms,” Sarah Burd-Sharps, the group’s director of research, told the AP. “The loopholes in the law allow people to avoid the system, even if they just meet online or at a gun show for the first time.”
Unsurprisingly, gun rights advocates have pushed against that idea, and some have even pushed against this new data on background checks. As Alan Gottlieb — founder of the group the Second Amendment Foundation — argued, the higher number of denials could be partially because of false positives.
“A day doesn’t go by that our office doesn’t get complaint calls from people who’ve been denied wrongly,” he told the AP.
See what others are saying: (USA Today) (Associated Press) (Reuters)
California Plans Unprecedented $5.2 Billion Rent Forgiveness Program
State lawmakers are also debating on whether to extend the eviction moratorium, which is set to end next week, to ensure that Californians are not evicted before their debts can be paid off by the state.
Rent Relief in the Works
The California State Legislature is in the final stages of negotiating an unprecedented $5.2 billion rent forgiveness program to pay off unpaid rent accumulated during the pandemic.
It is not entirely clear yet who would receive the money, which comes from an unexpected budget surplus and federal stimulus funds. After speaking to a top aide for Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), the Associated Press reported that the $5.2 billion figure would cover all rent.
However, the same aide told The New York Times that the state had federal funds “to help pay the rent of low-income people.”
The outlet also explicitly reported that the program “would be available to residents who earn no more than 80 percent of the median income in their area and who can show pandemic-related financial hardship.”
Newsom offered little clarity, retweeting multiple stories and posts on the matter, including The Times article as well as others that said “all” rent would be paid.
Regardless, the program would be the most generous rent forgiveness plan in American. Still, there remains an unresolved question of extending the statewide eviction moratorium that ends June 30.
Eviction Ban Complications
Starting the new program and distributing all the money will take some time, and California has been struggling to keep up with demand for more modest rent relief programs.
According to a report from the California Department Housing and Community Development, just $32 million of $490 million in requests for rental assistance through the end of May had been paid.
State legislators are debating extending the protections and are reportedly close to a deal, but nothing is set in stone yet.
Tenants rights groups say the move is necessary to ensure struggling Californians are not evicted before their debts can be paid off by the state, and some housing advocates want to keep the moratorium in place until employment has reached pre-pandemic levels.
Landlords, however, have said it is time to end the ban, pointing to the state’s rapid economic recovery, which added 495,000 new jobs since February, as well as Newsom lifting all restrictions on businesses last week.
But according to Opportunity Insights, an economic tracker based at Harvard, while it is true that employment for middle- and high-wage jobs has now surpassed pre-pandemic levels, the rates for low-income workers are down nearly 40% since January of last year.
As a result, many of the people who have months or even a year of unpaid rent have barely been able to chip away at what they owe.
State Recovery Spurred by Revenue Surplus
Newsom’s new program comes as the governor has proposed a $100 billion recovery package — also drawing from the budget surplus and unspent federal funds — that would pour funds into numerous sectors including education, homelessness, and much more.
California is not the only state that has newfound reserves. According to The Times, at least 22 states have surplus revenue after pinching pennies during the pandemic. Some are still deciding what to do with the funding, but others have already begun to invest it into education, construction, the arts, and more.
While many economists have said these funds will be incredibly helpful tools to get economic recovery back on track and aid those hurt most by the pandemic, Republicans in Congress have argued to those surpluses should go towards paying for President Joe Biden’s infrastructure plan.
The Biden Administration and most Congressional Democrats have remained adamant that the states keep their extra funding to implement recovery-centered programs. White House spokeswoman Emilie Simons reiterated that belief Monday, telling reporters that state surpluses will not alter America’s infrastructure needs and emphasizing that many states are still struggling economically.
“This crisis has adversely impacted state and local governments, and that is not fully captured by one economic indicator,” she said.