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  • FILE - In this Jan. 8, 2017, file photo, Harvey Weinstein arrives at The Weinstein Company and Netflix Golden Globes afterparty in Beverly Hills, Calif.  (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP, File)

  • People pass by the set of Today Show during the broadcast Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2017, in New York.  (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

  • Co-anchors Hoda Kotb, left, and Savannah Guthrie embrace on the set of the "Today" show Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2017, in New York, after NBC News fired host Matt Lauer.  (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

  • FILE - In this April 21, 2016, file photo, Matt Lauer, co-host of the NBC "Today" television program, appears on set in Rockefeller Plaza, in New York.  (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

  • In this Feb. 19, 2016 photo, Garrison Keillor uses his phone at the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul to time a promo for an upcoming show.  (Euan Kerr/Minnesota Public Radio via AP)

  • People stand at the windows and also pass by the set of the "Today" show during the broadcast on Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2017, in New York.  (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

  • This Nov. 8, 2017 photo released by NBC shows Matt Lauer on the set of the "Today" show in New York.  (Nathan Congleton/NBC via AP)

  • FILE - In this July 20, 2015 file photo, Garrison Keillor, creator and host of "A Prairie Home Companion," appears during an interview in St. Paul, Minn.  (AP Photo/Jim Mone, File)

  • In this Sept. 30, 2014 photo, Garrison Keillor talks with Daily Circuit host Tom Weber in the studios at Minnesota Public Radio in St. Paul, Minn. Keillor said Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2017, he has been fired by Minnesota Public Radio over allegations of improper behavior. (Jeffrey Thompson/Minnesota Public Radio via AP)

  • FILE - In this Oct. 27, 2017 file photo, Kevin Spacey presents the award for excellence in television at the BAFTA Los Angeles Britannia Awards in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP, File)

Thursday, November 30, 2017 10:40 am

Post-Weinstein, Lauer: A reckoning for fans of fallen heroes

LEANNE ITALIE | Associated Press

 

NEW YORK – When it comes to fandom, it's reckoning time for Matt Lauer, Garrison Keillor and scores of other men accused of sexual wrongdoing.

Hero celebrities have fallen before – Bill Cosby's career ended after assault allegations in 2014 – but never in the rapid succession that has rocked so many worlds since revelations about Harvey Weinstein exploded in October. Accusers of politicians, actors, comedians, singers, producers, directors, other media powerhouses and assorted business moguls have taken the power and fans of the disgraced have largely stood with the wronged.

But for some, giving up heroes isn't easy.

Savannah Guthrie, in breaking the news Wednesday on NBC's "Today" show about Lauer's firing over "inappropriate sexual behavior" with a colleague, appeared to be on the verge of tears.

"How do you reconcile your love for someone with the revelation that they have behaved badly, and I don't know the answer to that," she said. "But I do know that this reckoning that so many organizations have been going through is important, it's long overdue and it must result in workplaces where all women – all people – feel safe and respected."

Paul Booth, an associate professor of media and cinema studies in the College of Communication at DePaul University in Chicago, said some fans derive a piece of their identity from those they admire.

"Certainly to a lot of fans, fandom feels like something that you almost don't have control over, that what you're a fan of is part of who you are as a person," he said.

On social media and around the dinner table, many fans are in mourning. But in the Arizona border town of Douglas, 37-year-old Nubia Romo isn't ready to dump Lauer.

"Oh my goodness, I've woken up to the 'Today' show for years. It's so, so, so sad. My mother is really sad, too, but we don't have his side of the story," said Romo, who is studying to become a real estate agent.

Booth's academic focus includes fan mentality, along with the social media hive mind. While Romo said she was shocked that Lauer would be accused, hardcore fans, including those of Lauer but also of Louis C.K. and Kevin Spacey, may have had an inkling of rumored transgressions beforehand, choosing in the past to let the negative slide until allegations were pushed into full view, he said.

"For many fans, these are not necessarily new stories," Booth said. "One of the things about being a fan is that you learn the minutiae of a star. Although some of these stories are just coming out in the mainstream media, they have been circulating in fan circles for a while. Rumors about Kevin Spacey have been out and about in fan conversations for many years. Certainly Louis C.K.'s misconduct and harassment has been jokingly referred to by a lot of fans."

Letting go of longtime heroes can be a process, said Booth, other pop culture experts and women's rights activists.

"I think all of us are going to struggle with people who we looked up to and have done really good things," said Linda Sarsour, co-chair of this year's Women's March in Washington. "I can think of people like Al Franken and John Conyers and I'm so hurt and disappointed, but we're going to have to reckon with the issue and how it's impacted the victims and not our personal heroes."

The range of emotions among fans of Louis C.K. and the more recently accused – Lauer, Charlie Rose and Keillor – among so many others, continued to flow Wednesday.

Susan Scharf, a 69-year-old retired teacher in suburban New York, said she's a longtime Lauer fan and was "very, very shocked and disappointed," echoing what others also have pondered: "I thought he was a nice guy. As a woman, I can't support him now."

In Royal Oak, Michigan, Lauer fan Amy Hurley, a 45-year-old administrative assistant for General Motors, put it more succinctly: "Is every man a hypocrite?"

Outrage, sadness, frustration, shock and the craving to gather and share are common denominators among fans.

On Twitter, one angsty Louis C.K. die-hard in Egypt, using the handle @MilanistaFito, relied on the fictional Showtime series "The Affair" and the character Dr. Vic Ullah to help him articulate:

"I remember that scene from The Affair where a character says, 'If you think, on balance, that the good I do outweighs the bad, I'm a good person. If you think the bad outweighs the good, the opposite is true.' And I believe that the good C.K. does outweighs the bad."

Thousands of miles away, continents collided in the brain of comedian Sarah Silverman, Louise C.K.'s friend of 25 years, when she broke her silence in an emotional monologue before an episode of her Hulu talk show, "I Love You, America."

"Some of our heroes will be taken down, and we will discover bad things about people we like, or in some cases, people we love," she said.

While thousands stand with accusers and wish Lauer and others who have toppled a bitter farewell, Hilari Vires, of Scottsburg, Indiana, feels as Romo does about one of the big faces of "Today."

"I honestly think that people should not judge or hate on him until there is proof regarding the accusations," she said. "Even if he did the things he's accused of, I don't think he's a bad or evil person."

Bridget Borisonek, 42, of St. Paul, Minnesota, is a huge Keillor fan. She has listened to his former radio show, "A Prairie Home Companion," for 20 years and has seen the show live several times.

"I want to trust public figures. I want to trust somebody who leads what is essentially wholesome family entertainment," she said. "Tremendous disappointment. And like almost a sense of loss. "

The process for some looking in from the outside as non-fans is void of heartbreak.

"Sorry to straight people who keep finding out their heroes suck but you should've listened to gays and worshipped 52-year-old actresses who specialize in monologues about their crumbling marriage," tweeted comedy writer, entertainment journalist and the sometimes pop culture podcaster Louis Virtel.

In a recent interview, Virtel said fall they must.

"There's always this ongoing conversation on separating the art from the artist," he said. "As somebody whose heroes have never turned into sexual predators I find it a pretty mundane conversation. It's a conversation usually started by men who think the only form of universal genius out there is stuff given to us by men."

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Associated Press writers Warren Levinson in New York, Michael Sisak in Philadelphia and Amy Forliti in Minneapolis contributed to this story.