A former Today show employee has spoken out about a brief affair she says she had with Matt Lauer 17 years ago. She was 24 at the time and had previously worked on the iconic morning show as an intern before what she described as a consensual relationship ultimately took a lasting personal and professional toll on her life. Telling her story to Variety, Addie Zinone said that she was working as a production assistant for Today in 2000, when she had accepted a job at WDTV Channel 5 in West Virginia to pursue her dream of becoming a broadcaster. The news, evidently, made its way to Matt Lauer, who contacted her through an internal instant messaging system called Top of Line.
“YOU’RE KILLING ME…YOU LOOK GREAT TODAY! A BIT TOUGH TO CONCENTRATE,” Lauer, who was just two years into his marriage at the time, wrote.
“hey,” responded Zinone. “okay, is someone screwing around w/me?” Zinone provided photos of the chats she had with Lauer to Variety as photographic evidence of the back-and-forth the two had.
At the time, she thought it was a prank from someone who stole his log-in. But Lauer, who was recently married at the time, confirmed that it was in fact him. They later went to lunch, where she hoped that Lauer might actually give her constructive career advice. Instead, she said, he continued to aggressively hit on her. After they were back at the office, she said, he messaged her to meet him in the dressing room. And she agreed.
The relationship, she said, was consensual, but took a toll on her confidence as he repeatedly summoned her for sexual encounters — including humiliating encounters in a bathroom and in his office. When she left for her new job, she was approached by a reporter from the National Enquirer. She lied and told the reporter she and Lauer were just friends, but when she told Lauer about what happened, he asked simply, “Who did you tell?” Then never responded again. Zinone grew depressed, and quit her job as a TV anchor. She went on to join the Army, and eventually found a path for herself as a journalist, but looking back she said that she felt taken advantage of by Lauer.
“I ultimately felt like a victim because of the power dynamic,” she told Variety. “He knew that I was leaving, and that there was no better prey than somebody who is going to be gone. He went after the most vulnerable and the least powerful — and those were the production assistants and the interns. He understood that we were going to be so flattered and so enthralled by the idea that the most powerful man at NBC News is taking any interest in us. He felt like he was untouchable. He lacked so much morality and reality, because he had people enabling him. I see the common threads and how he preyed on women, and I was one of them.”
Meanwhile, on Friday, a lawyer for one of Matt Lauer’s accusers said the network was not doing enough to protect her privacy in the wake of the disgraced morning host’s firing.”NBC has a duty to maintain confidentiality,” the lawyer, Ari Wilkenfeld, said during an appearance on — of all places — the Today show. “That means to maintain secrecy over her name and to hold to themselves the details of her story. They have not done a good job of doing that. They know exactly what they have done. And they need to stop.” He added, There’s a hunt underway to figure out who she is.”
Speaking with Variety, Zinone, also revealed how, years later, she was denied an opportunity at Today, and spoke about the ways in which Lauer’s superiors allegedly worked to silence and shun the women he targeted.
Read the full story at Variety.