Lauer defends GM mom question – Politico
NBC’s Matt Lauer on Thursday responded to critics of his questioning of General Motors boss Mary Barra on whether she thought she got the job because she’s a woman and if she can handle being both a CEO and a mother.
“I want to tread lightly here, but you’ve heard it, you’ve heard it in Congress and you’ve heard it in the headlines. … But there are some people who are speculating that you got this job as a woman and as a mom because people within General Motors knew this company was in for a very tough time, and as a woman and a mom you could present a softer face and a softer image for the company as it goes through the episode [faulty parts linked to deaths],” Lauer said on the “Today” show.
Barra, the first female CEO of GM and a mother of two who has been with the carmaker for decades, rising up through the ranks, immediately dismissed the speculation as false.
“Well, that is absolutely not true,” she told Lauer in the exclusive interview. “You know, I believe I was selected for this job based on my qualifications.”
Lauer continued, asking if she will be able to balance the demands of her work and her family.
“You’re a mom, I mentioned, two kids, you said in an interview not long ago that your kids said they’re going to hold you accountable for one job, and that is being a mom,” he said. “Given the pressure at General Motors, can you do both well?”
“You know, I think I can,” Barra responded. “I have a great team, we’re on the right path, we’re doing the right things, we’re taking accountability and also I have a wonderful family and a supportive husband, and I’m pretty proud of my kids the way they’re supporting me in this.”
Since the interview aired, Lauer’s questions have come under fire in reaction columns and over Twitter.
“Would he ever contemplate asking Alan Mulally at Ford, or Sergio Marchionne at FiatChrysler, if they could be a good CEO and a good parent at the same time?” business columnist Tom Walsh wrote in an opinion piece for the Detroit Free Press.
Jalopnik’s Patrick George also published a reaction on the interview. He wrote, “Come on, Matt. Aren’t we past this kind of s—- by now? Besides the fact that no reporter would probably ever ask a male CEO that question, it’s just completely irrelevant.”
“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 [O]lympics in Russia,” Bryce Covert of Think Progress pointed out in his reaction.
Center for American Progress President Neera Tanden took her displeasure to Twitter. She tweeted, “My suggestion: Maybe working moms should stop watching @MLauer.”
Lauer answered criticism on his Facebook on Thursday afternoon, explaining that his interview was referencing a Forbes article in which the GM CEO mentioned missing her son’s junior prom for work.
“It’s an issue almost every parent including myself can relate to,” Lauer wrote. “If a man had publicly said something similar after accepting a high-level job, I would have asked him exactly the same thing. … [Work-life balance is] an important topic, one that I’m familiar with personally, and I hope we can continue the discussion.”