Highs and Lows of Andy Lack’s Run at NBC News

By A.J. Katz 

Telemundo Enterprises chairman Cesar Conde has been named the new chairman of NBC Universal News Group, and NBC News chairman Andy Lack is officially leaving the network at the end of the month.

Lack’s contract was set to lapse at the end of the year, and many assumed that NBC News president Noah Oppenheim would be his successor, beginning after the 2020 presidential election.

That obviously did not come to fruition.

Lack’s career at NBC has been a long, eventful one spanning two separate terms: 1993-2003 and 2015-present.

In between those stints, he served as chairman and CEO of Sony BMG Music Entertainment, Bloomberg Media Group and the Broadcasting Board of Governors before returning to NBC News and replacing Pat Fili-Krushel as NBC News Group chief in 2015.

During his second run at the network, Lack brought back NBC News as the No. 1 television news network among the advertiser-preferred demographic, Adults 25-54.

In addition to the broadcast network, the cable news network has grown significantly in recent years under the leadership of Lack and MSNBC chief Phil Griffin.

Since the start of the Trump administration, MSNBC has become the second-most-watched network on cable television.

There were also NBC News’ record-setting Democratic presidential primary debates in 2019.

However, there were many low moments during Lack’s tenure running NBC News.

The news division’s most prominent personality, Matt Lauer, was fired from NBC on Nov. 28, 2017 after a “detailed complaint” of “inappropriate sexual behavior.”

However, the story went much deeper.

In 2018, NBC general counsel Kim Harris oversaw an internal probe into sexual harassment claims made by four women against Lauer going back to 2000. Lauer’s contract was terminated six days after the first accuser sent an email to NBC News’ human resources in November 2017.

Many outside groups did not like the fact that the probe was being conducted internally, and consequently were not surprised when the following was announced:

“We found no evidence indicating that any NBC News or Today Show leadership, News HR or others in positions of authority in the News Division received any complaints about Lauer’s workplace behavior prior to November 27, 2017,” the report concluded.

There were also claims made by former NBC News correspondent Linda Vester against then-Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw in 1994. At the time, Lack had been president of NBC News for one year. “Tom emphatically denies,” the charges, Lack wrote in a memo to staff.

More recently, there were the allegations leveled against Lack publicly in Ronan Farrow‘s book Catch and Kill.

In Catch and Kill, Farrow, a former NBC News investigative reporter and MSNBC host, wrote that former Hollywood producer, mogul and convicted sex offender Harvey Weinstein informed the NBC News chairman that he was aware of Lauer’s past alleged sexual misconduct in the workplace, and could make the information public unless Lack would help “kill” Farrow’s investigative report into Weinstein’s alleged sexual misconduct.

Farrow alleged that Lack, among other NBC News execs, attempted to “kill” his reporting on Weinstein and that Lack himself “preyed on female underlings and pursued sexual relationships with them.”

Lack vehemently denied the claims and denied “killing” the reporting. He said Farrow painted a “fundamentally untrue picture” of what happened with the Weinstein story, and defended the news organization.

In addition to the aforementioned accusations, there was the Megyn Kelly hire in January 2017 which didn’t go as planned.

She hosted a short-lived prime-time newsmagazine program that summer. Her morning show, Megyn Kelly Today, debuted that fall, but was cancelled about a year later in October 2018, not long after she remarked on-air that she did not understand why the use of blackface on Halloween was inappropriate. The remark drew criticism both on social media and from her colleagues at the network, including mainstay Al Roker.

The Fox-turned NBC Newser issued a heartfelt apology on-air the following morning, but apparently that was not good enough for NBC News management, and her 9 a.m. program was taken off the air on Friday, Oct. 26.

The former Fox News star, whose NBC contract was for three years at a reported $69 million, parted ways with the network two years into that pact, in January 2019.

As for Lack’s personal resume, earlier in his career he was a producer for 60 Minutes and head of CBS Reports. Lack moved to NBC in 1993 to become NBC News president. In 2001 he was promoted to president and chief operating officer. Lack left the network in 2003 as a succession plan at the time made way for NBC entertainment chief Jeff Zucker to take over NBC. He did, and held the top role until Comcast took over in 2011. Zucker is now chairman of WarnerMedia News and Sports.

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