NBC's Next Headache? New Olympics Host Mike Tirico Has Harassment in His Past
The network is sticking with its Bob Costas replacement, who was suspended at ESPN in the early 1990s: "Mike has repeatedly assured us that this behavior is long in his past, and we have no evidence of anything to the contrary."
Matt Lauer is said to have behaved inappropriately with a female subordinate at the 2014 Winter Games in Russia. Now his alleged conduct is casting a cloud over the next Olympics two months before NBC Sports heads to Pyeongchang, South Korea. Scrutiny is falling on Mike Tirico, who was suspended at ESPN in the early 1990s amid allegations of sexual harassment. Tirico's behavior was recounted in two books: Michael Freeman's ESPN: The Uncensored History, published in 2000, and James Andrew Miller and Tom Shales' 2011 book, Those Guys Have All the Fun.
NBC Sports hired Tirico away from ESPN in 2016 and announced this year that he will become the new primetime TV host for the games, replacing Bob Costas. Tirico, 50, already appears on NBC's NFL coverage. And NBC Sports says there are no plans to replace him. "When we hired Mike in 2016, we were aware of the incidents from more than 25 years ago, which had been addressed in 1991-92 by ESPN, his employer at the time, and for which he has apologized," an NBC Sports rep says in a statement to THR. "Mike has repeatedly assured us that this behavior is long in his past, and we have no evidence of anything to the contrary in his tenure at NBC Sports." Josh Krulewitz, an ESPN spokesperson, adds: "These charges were aggressively addressed 25 years ago with a lengthy suspension."
NBC Sports execs had been eyeing Tirico for some time; his expertise in golf and football make him a natural fit for the network's rights portfolio. But multiple sources say the disclosures in the books were cause for concern. "They were waiting until he got some distance from the book," says one insider, referring to the 2011 tome. Ultimately executives were satisfied that the matter had been properly adjudicated, and his first games will begin Feb. 9. Indeed, other prominent sportscasters have weathered far more public scandals, most famously Marv Albert, who was tried for sexual assault in 1997. He was ousted from NBC Sports but brought back in 2000 and announced basketball for NBC during the 2014 Summer Games in Rio.
This story first appeared in the Dec. 6 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.