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Matt Lauer and the Unearned Redemption of Terrible Men

Celebrities disgraced during the #MeToo movement want forgiveness despite making zero amends.

matt lauer today show

People Magazine has published a simpering new profile of disgraced morning anchor Matt Lauer one year after he was fired for alleged sexual misconduct. According to sources, “It has been hard for him. He went from being a super busy person to having nothing but time on his hands. He is not doing well.”

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Pity the jobless multi-millionaire and alleged sexual harasser who now has all the time in the world to spend with his (gasp!) children. Social media quickly took the magazine to task for such a fawning puff piece for a man accused of sexual assault and harassment:

The article is indicative of a larger problem that has come in the aftermath of the #MeToo movement: accused men demanding acceptance and forgiveness despite putting zero work into redeeming themselves. The pattern is clear: lay low for a few months, then slither back into the public eye and hope no one remembers you were a creep.

Maybe you can get an obsequious profile like Lauer or Jeffrey Tambor. Or maybe you just start showing up at your old haunts and performing stand-up like Louis C.K., as if nothing has happened.

But what would redemption even look like for these men, who have miraculously evaded arrest and prosecution for alleged sexual misconduct? There is no cultural blueprint for the reckoning of men like these, because this behavior has always been condoned, even celebrated. Even more frustrating, these men have now made themselves victims and have convinced the media to go along with their “woe is me” stories.

The fact is, redemption can take a lot of different forms. For men like Lauer and C.K., the easiest one is financial: pay up. Donate money to nonprofits for victims of sexual assault and violence. Sacrifice a small portion of your already massive wealth to help those in need. Another step in the path towards redemption is issuing an apology. Not a mealy-mouthed, vague whiff of an apology, but a sincere expression of regret and remorse.

Part of what is so frustrating about these men returning to the public eye is that they have done zero work to get there. They treat their brief shunning like time in the penalty box, when they should be examining their own behavior and dismantling the toxic masculinity that made them this way. But these men don’t want to put the work in. Why? Because they aren’t sorry for what they did. They’re sorry they got caught.

(via Celebitchy, image: Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)

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Chelsea Steiner
Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. An pop culture journalist since 2012, her work has appeared on Autostraddle, AfterEllen, and more. Her beats include queer popular culture, film, television, republican clownery, and the unwavering belief that 'The Long Kiss Goodnight' is the greatest movie ever made. She currently resides in sunny Los Angeles, with her husband, 2 sons, and one poorly behaved rescue dog. She is a former roller derby girl and a black belt in Judo, so she is not to be trifled with. She loves the word “Jewess” and wishes more people used it to describe her.

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