Katie Couric Slams NBCU’s Jeff Shell as ‘So Stupid and Reckless’ After Misconduct Ouster: ‘Rules Don’t Apply?’
Katie Couric spoke out Wednesday against former NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell and the workplace misconduct that led to his ouster in April, calling him “so stupid and reckless.”
“Clearly someone in a position of power cannot be involved in a sexual relationship with someone whose fate depends on said person,” Couric said, speaking on Kelly Ripa’s podcast with SiriusXM, “Let’s Talk Off Camera.” “And so that’s why I was just so shocked that Jeff Shell would do this. And what is it? Is it kind of the power dynamic? Are they so surrounded with yes people, they think the rules don’t apply to them?”
The lauded journalist and former anchor of NBC’s morning news program, “Today,” added, “It just amazes me that a powerful executive like that would be so dumb, just be so stupid and reckless. I think reckless is the word. You can see how it happens, but I think you have to be smart and disciplined and know that unless you tell your supervisor, and unless you’re not a direct report, that having a relationship with a colleague isn’t cool.”
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Couric also offered some empathy for the situation, as she feels a career in media at that level can cloud one’s judgement.
“It is hard. It’s very heady being in an industry and being a quote-unquote ‘celebrity,’ whatever that means,” she said. “It does do weird things to your head and you have got to kind of remind yourself that, you know, you put your pants on the same way as everyone else.”
Her comments came three weeks after Shell’s ouster from the company, which was onset by an investigation by an outside firm over a sexual misconduct complaint in the workplace. It was revealed soon after that investigation was made public that Shell’s firing was due to an “inappropriate relationship” with a female employee, according to a statement from parent company Comcast.
“Today is my last day as CEO of NBCUniversal,” Shell wrote at the time in a memo to staff. “I had an inappropriate relationship with a woman in the company, which I deeply regret. I’m truly sorry I let my Comcast and NBCUniversal colleagues down, they are the most talented people in the business and the opportunity to work with them the last 19 years has been a privilege.”
Couric said that the consequences of Shell’s actions came at a time when the definition of a consensual relationship is changing.
“Even if they’re two willing participants, if there’s a power imbalance, who’s to say it’s truly consensual?” she posed. “Who’s to say there isn’t some kind of pressure?”
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