What is this awful NBC skit with Matt Lauer pretending to be a victim of sexual harassment?

Seriously, what on earth is this?
Seriously, what on earth is this?
Image: Twitter screenshot/NBC
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Matt Lauer was fired from NBC News today after the network was made aware of detailed allegations that he sexually harassed a colleague. CNN reported that the New York Times and Variety had been investigating the former Today anchor for weeks.

NBC has already come under scrutiny for shutting down Ronan Farrow’s investigation into allegations against film executive Harvey Weinstein, which the reporter then took to the New York Times. As New Yorker writer Jelani Cobb notes, the outlet’s decision to kill that story is part of a climate that encourages victims of sexual misconduct to stay silent:

NBC contributed to that climate in another way: In 2012, the network aired a truly awful sketch in which Matt Lauer pretended to be the victim of workplace sexual harassment. Comedy Central’s The Daily Show dug up the clip and tweeted it today shortly after NBC announced Lauer’s dismissal.

In the clip, Lauer’s butt is smacked by his NBC colleague, Willie Geist. Today co-host Savannah Guthrie calls it “the smack heard round the studio” before fellow NBC News reporter Jeff Rossen begins a jokingly serious investigative report into the matter as if it were a real case of sexual harassment.

“Look, this kind of behavior happens all the time between guys on football fields and in huddles, but is it really appropriate for the workplace?” Rossen asks. “Judge for yourself.”

Lauer is then “interviewed” during the segment. Rossen says Lauer is “the owner of that derrière, breaking his silence” as sad piano music begins to play.

The entire thing was dumb and bizarre in 2012, but looks especially awful in light of today’s news about Lauer. Sketches like this one are exactly what allow men in powerful positions to brush off abuse as a joke.

In an ironic twist almost too ridiculous to believe, actor Dustin Hoffman, himself the subject of sexual misconduct allegations, materializes out of thin air at the end of the clip to offer his opinion on the situation. He makes a joke about a penis.