Nancy O’Dell’s 25-year career as a showbiz journalist makes her the ideal host for “Sex. Scandals. Crime,” a one-hour recap of the #MeToo movement in the entertainment world following allegations of sexual abuse leveled at onetime kingpin Harvey Weinstein.
But you can’t watch Wednesday’s special on Reelz without being reminded that the 53-year-old anchor knows what it’s like to be in the center of the storm.
When tape leaked in October 2016 of Donald Trump boasting about how he once made a move on her when she was with “Access Hollywood,” O’Dell went from covering the headlines to being one. Her colleague at the time, Billy Bush, soon lost his job; Trump won the presidential election a month later.
O’Dell, who has since moved to “Entertainment Tonight,” hasn’t spoken much about the incident since it was revealed three years ago, but she took time from a family vacation this week to reflect on the incident’s repercussions as well as her hopes for the new special.
Q: The cases you focus on in the documentary won’t be news to most viewers. What do you hope to accomplish by revisiting them?
A: It can be confusing to figure out how the allegations seemed to explode all at once. The show puts it all together for you, step by step, starting with Harvey Weinstein. You can see how things snowballed and took on a life of their own. Before the Weinstein accusations, things had been comparatively quiet. Women wondered if going to the HR department would mean their own downfall and whether or not people would believe them. The #MeToo movement changed all that.
Q: Looking back, did journalists drop the ball by not covering sexual harassment in Hollywood more aggressively in the past?
A: We would hear rumors in the industry, like about Bill Cosby. We all know what happened in his first trial, and we certainly covered that. But it got even more attention the second time around.
One of the things I love about the #MeToo movement is that it allowed us as entertainment journalists to take a right turn. I love covering what people are wearing on the red carpet, but I also love covering when celebrities are making a difference in the workplace and the culture. I say to Leonardo DiCaprio all the time, “I adore you because you are so cute, but also because of what you do for the environment.”
Q: Of all the cases you cover in the special, which one shook you the most?
A: Oh, gosh. Charlie Rose and Matt Lauer were huge shocks, because I know them personally and have really enjoyed working with them, Charlie in particular. That’s not the person I knew.
I can tell you that when Hoda Kotb and Savannah Guthrie had to report the news about Matt on the “Today” show, my stomach felt like butterflies. They did a fantastic job. It had to be tough for them to do that when you work with somebody that you consider a friend.
Q: You also know what it’s like to have to report on sexual misconduct after you’ve been part of the story. How did you get through the attention that was paid to you after the Trump tape was leaked?
A: It was originally really awkward. I’m used to reporting the news rather than being the news. I didn’t like it. It was bizarre. But I liked the way “ET” handled it, where I was able to make a statement and say that women shouldn’t be objectified at any point, that if you work hard, your hard work will be recognized. I liked it when the show got back to normal.
Q: You were Miss South Carolina and have hosted several pageants. What are your thoughts on the competition?
A: I have mixed feelings. There were lots of positive benefits to being Miss South Carolina. I got to go out and speak on behalf of the state, which was extremely beneficial. I got to be part of a trade delegation to Japan. It paid my way through college.
But I do think pageants should put more of an emphasis on intelligence, talent and the interview process. I’m OK with them dropping the swimsuit portion. I wouldn’t want my daughter parading around in a swimsuit.