Matt Lauer has been one of the most consistently liberal voices in New York media in my lifetime. Often you’ll find him lobbing softball questions at his favorite left-wing icons while ignoring the opposition or just not even having them there to discuss their point at all. It’s the worst kept secret in the media today, and part of the reason that The Today Show is a favorite stopping point for everyone peddling a social justice cause du jour.
It came as a great surprise to me that Lauer would be at the center of a controversy over his questioning of GM CEO Mary Barra when he asked her on his show two questions that sent everyone into a frenzy.
Question #1: Do you think you were given the position to present a softer side of GM during its current crises?
Question #2: Do you think you’ll be able to effectively balance being a CEO and a mother?
Now, many people who could potentially ask that question would be called out for being sexist and so on, but when I read the questions, I thought of it completely differently. Lauer is a lot of things, but sexist? No. He’s actually, to put it in the words of many people I’ve heard call him such, a weenie and is so committed to being unapologetically left-wing that I actually think people are seeing this precisely the wrong way.
Let’s look at question #1. He didn’t say she wasn’t qualified, but he did imply that her being a woman shed a warmer light on the company than having a man at the helm would. Those kinds of considerations are made all the time and, honestly, when left wingers (the complainers in this case) talk about affirmative action, this is what happens. In fact, talking about making “diversity appointments” or hiring someone to fill a quota or presenting a more “diverse” appearance, these are the consequences. Added to that, the side effect of affirmative action type policies is that every protected class who achieves anything will have it questioned because of it and you have a combustible mix of a bad idea and an insitutionalized bias.
She basically answered that question by saying that “Some people would say that, but I’ve earned the position on my merits.” Fine. Problem solved.
Now for question #2: Can you balance the needs of being a CEO and a mother?
This is the question that caused the most outrage because it was clear to everyone with a women’s studies degree that the only reason for asking that question was because Lauer clearly believes that women do not have the ability to do so. I mean, that’s what interviewers do, right? They ask questions that have simple answers that validate their beliefs, right?
Well yeah, if they suck as an interviewer they do, but Lauer isn’t an idiot. Lauer didn’t ask that question because he believes it, it’s called lobbing a softball. Lauer wouldn’t conceivably believe that she couldn’t do the job and balance being a mother. He asked the question to give her a springboard from which to jump into exactly why she could do that and how ridiculous that question, which didn’t originate in Lauer’s brain, really is.
That’s right, as Lauer explained, he was referencing a Forbes article that raised a similar point and he was giving her a chance to respond.
Of course that doesn’t stop the gnashing of teeth, as it usually doesn’t and the usual suspects are calling for the usual things. Boycotts, protests, angry tweets, etc.
See, I’ve been known to commit acts of journalism from time to time. In a former life, I was the Editor of my high school newspaper, a writer for my college newspaper, and a mildly successful podcaster including a stint as an interviewer where I talked to some of the best names in the tech business, so believe me, I know what I’m talking about when I say this: Matt Lauer’s agenda drove him to ask those questions, and that agenda is not to make her look bad, but to make her critics look bad.
When he asked those questions, it was to give her easy criticisms that she could forcefully reject and look like the strong qualified leader she is. He wasn’t trying to make her look bad, he was trying to give her an opportunity to make herself look good and instead of taking it, she reacted to him (not the critics he was citing) and then her advocates joined right in because, as is usually the case, they led with their hearts and not with their brains.
Sad, because this was a missed opportunity to respond forcefully to critics (which, to her credit, Barra kind of did) and her answers, which were pretty decent (albeit they could’ve been more forceful) are now being overshadowed by a bunch of offenderati jerks who don’t understand how journalism actually happens and how an interview is done.
If Matt Lauer hadn’t been so reliably liberal over his time as host of Today, I might buy that he was being combative with Barra, but I just don’t see it. If you follow my golden rule and assume benign intent, then you can make a rational argument (rather than an emotional one) that he was merely giving her a chance to speak her peace.
People need to relax a little and stop being so quick to be outraged and extort apologies. It seems to be a recurring theme lately, and yet we’ve learned next to nothing after each time it happens.
Header image via Nan Palmero on Flickr