During a shareholders meeting on Wednesday, Comcast CEO and Chairman Brian Roberts rejected multiple proposals from investors, including one that demanded the company hire an outside investigator to look into how NBC News handled complaints of sexual harassment against fired “Today” show anchor Matt Lauer.
The Los Angeles Times reported that some investors asked why Comcast didn’t hire an outside investigator t look into allegations of sexual misconduct. CBS and Fox News, for the record, each hired outside law firms to investigate such allegations within their ranks. Yet NBC has still refused, instead relying on an internal investigation with assistance from two outside law firms that concluded NBC News was not at fault and that no complaints had been filed against Lauer until November 2017.
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One shareholder, Arjuna Capital of Manchester, Mass., requested the company conduct an “independent investigation and report on risks posed by failing to prevent sexual harassment.”
The firm noted that NBC News’ digital editorial staff voted to form a union with the NewsGuild of New York because staff members, among other things, have “serious questions” about management’s handling of allegations of workplace sexual misconduct. Allegations about inappropriate comments by managers have been made by three Comcast call center employees, according to Arjuna.
“Workplace harassment can harm shareholder value,” Arjuna Capital wrote in its proposal. “To avoid legal and reputational risk, as the employer of 184,000 workers, Comcast must create a culture of accountability and transparency, and protect employees from harassment and discrimination.”
Comcast fought the suggestion, asking shareholders to reject Arjuna Capital’s proposal because “our company has been built on a foundation of respect, integrity and trust, and we are committed to creating a work environment that promotes those values.”
Last fall, former NBC host Ronan Farrow published a book alleging a conspiracy to cover up allegations against Lauer. Farrow’s book was criticized heavily by New York Times media columnist Ben Smith. Lauer himself wrote an article for Mediate highlighting numerous factual issues with Farrow’s book, providing evidence to back up his criticism.
NBC did hire an outside firm to look into allegations from Gabrielle Union, who claimed racism and a toxic environment led to her exit from “America’s Got Talent.” That outside firm concluded that an alleged toxic environment had “no bearing” on her leaving the show.
In addition to requests for the outside investigation into sexual allegations, an elderly couple also requested “senior discounts” for cable customers. Another shareholder concern was that some MSNBC anchors were supporting protesters even as protests across the country turned violent. Chairman Roberts, however, dismissed concerns and ignored the violence.
“It is truly heartbreaking and tragic that, in 2020, we find our society still struggling with issues that are so core to human dignity. Racism, injustice, violence have no place and cannot be tolerated,” he said. “By and large, I think the coverage continues to inform and educate our society. … But thank you for your comment.”