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Matt Lauer came under fire Thursday morning following his interview with GM chief executive Mary Barra over a question he asked about her ability to do her job well while also being a good mother.
During the interview, which aired Thursday on NBC’s Today, Lauer brought up a recent statement made by Barra about missing her son’s junior prom: “My kids told me the one job they are going to hold me accountable for is ‘Mom.’ ”
Lauer followed up: “Given the pressures of this job at General Motors, can you do both well?”
Barra’s response: “You know, I think I can. 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.”
Afterward, Lauer was criticized in the media and Twitter for asking what many called a “sexist” question. Several viewers asked him on Twitter whether he would have posed the same question to a male.
“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,” Think Progress’ Bryce Covert wrote.
And Yahoo Autos’ Justin Hyde wrote: “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 Thursday afternoon, Lauer took to his Facebook page to explain his line of questioning, noting that it had “started an important conversation.”
“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.”
Lauer, himself a father of three, also noted that the topic is important to him and that Today previously did a series about fathers and the challenges they face.
“A couple weeks ago, we did a series on ‘Modern Dads’ and the challenges of fatherhood today,” he continued. “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.”
Barra has not yet weighed in on the controversy.
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