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Warren, Sanders among Democrats calling for NBC sexual abuse probe ahead of debate

Megan Henney

Democratic presidential candidates Elizabeth WarrenBernie Sanders, Cory Booker and Kamala Harris called for an independent investigation into NBC ahead of the Democratic debate hosted by MSNBC.

The senators, in a letter to Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez, requested a probe into the latest allegations of sexual assault and harassment by NBC executives and on-air talent, as well as reports of a cover-up by the company’s management.

“We, the undersigned candidates, are very concerned about the message it would send to sexual assault survivors if our next debate is sponsored by MSNBC without clear commitments from Comcast, the parent company of NBC and MSNBC, to conduct an independent investigation into the toxic culture that enabled abusers and silenced survivors,” the candidates wrote.

MSNBC and The Washington Post are scheduled to host the fifth Democratic debate in Atlanta on Wednesday night.

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NBC has faced mounting criticism for how it handled sexual harassment and assault allegations against former "Today" show host Matt Lauer, who was fired two years ago after a colleague made a sexual misconduct complaint against him.

In a book released in October by journalist Ronan Farrow, “Catch and Kill,” the woman who made the allegations against Lauer spoke publicly about her experience, saying he raped her in a hotel room while they were covering the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Lauer denies this.

Farrow also accused NBC executives of trying to block his reporting of Harvey Weinstein, the now-disgraced Hollywood powerhouse producer. Farrow eventually took his story on Weinstein to The New Yorker, which published the numerous allegations of sexual assault against him. NBC denies that it slow-walked his story, saying his reporting did not meet editorial standards.

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Weinstein is awaiting trial in New York on rape and other sexual assault charges. He has pleaded not guilty.

In the letter, the four Democratic candidates said that, as a party, they need to “offer voters a clear and unquestionable difference come November when it comes to these important issues,” compared to President Trump, who’s been accused of sexual assault by 23 women.

“It is critical that the Democratic National Committee make clear that they support survivors of sexual harassment and abuse by ensuring that Comcast and NBC News take steps to clean up the toxic culture that exists across their networks,” they wrote.

NBC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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