Matt Lauer Still Has No Idea What Was Wrong with That 'Sexist' Interview Question
byKaitlin StanfordJun 30, 2014
Matt Lauer is still in hot water this week after offending nearly every working mom in America last Thursday.
It all happened during his blunder-filled 'Today Show' interview with GM's new CEO, Mary Barra. In case you missed it, here's how it went down in a nutshell: Lauer sat with Barra (who was promoted to CEO just six months ago) to discuss the future of the automotive company, which has been recently plagued by a spell of recalls and bad press. But he was also there to shine a spotlight on the woman herself, who is GM's first female CEO and has been with the company for more than 30 years, when she started working its assembly line.
Unfortunately, the convo took a turn for the awkward/offensive when Lauer tried to bring up the work-life balance discussion in a manner that many have found to be uncomfortably sexist.
LAUER: You’re a mom, I mentioned — two kids. You said in an interview not long ago that your kids told you they’re going to hold you accountable for one job and that is being a mom.
LAUER: Given the pressures of this job at General Motors, can you do both well?
To which every woman watching promptly threw him some serious side-eye and yelled at the TV "Seriously, Matt?!"
As for Barra, she responded with a more controlled, gracious tone than the rest of us.
"You know, I think I can," she said, humbly. "I have a great team, we’re on the right path … I have a wonderful family, a supportive husband and I’m pretty proud of the way my kids are supporting me in this."
Almost immediately, comments started flooding in on Twitter, and several columnists commented not just on how Lauer phrased the question, but the fact that he posed it at all. Would he have asked that same question to a man, many wondered.
“Lauer himself is a father of three children, but that hasn’t stopped him from doing his job, which has included, among other things, traveling to 50 locations for the ‘Where in the World Is Matt Lauer’ segment, or standing in for Bob Costas to host the Sochi Olympics in Russia,” wrote Bryce Covert of Think Progress.
Over at Yahoo Autos, Justin Hyde also pointed out the obvious: "For the record: All previous GM CEOs that I've known had children. In my 15 years of covering the industry, I can recall only a couple of occasions where they were ever asked how they balanced the roles of father and executive; it was more often them who brought it up in small talk about what was going on in their lives outside the company."
On Friday, Lauer responded to the criticism on his own Facebook page, where he attempted to explain his line of questioning.
"As part of the interview, I referenced this Forbes article where Barra talked about the challenge of balancing work life and home life," he wrote. "She said, 'My kids told me the one job they are going to hold me accountable for is mom.' She had just accepted the job as the first female CEO of a major American automotive company, and in the article she said that she felt horrible when she missed her son's junior prom. It’s an issue almost any parent, including myself, can relate to. If a man had publicly said something similar after accepting a high-level job, I would have asked him exactly the same thing. A couple weeks ago, we did a series on 'Modern Dads' and the challenges of fatherhood today. Work-life balance was one of our focuses. It’s an important topic, one that I’m familiar with personally, and I hope we can continue the discussion."
What do you think about Lauer's question? Sound off below.