Addie Zinone claims that when she was 24 and working as a production assistant at the Today show, she entered a brief sexual relationship with Matt Lauer, who was in his 40s and married to current wife Annette Roque.
In a first-person account to Variety, Zinone, now 41, claims that on June 8, 2000, after two years at the Today show, Lauer sent her a message over an instant messaging system used for employees. “Hey, I hope you won’t drag me to personnel for saying this, but you look fantastic,” Lauer, then 42, reportedly wrote in the messages, obtained by Variety. “I don’t know what you have done, or what is going on in your life … but it’s agreeing with you.”
She told Variety that thanked him and told him she had accepted a position in West Virginia and only had a few more weeks at the job. She also asked if she could get some advice from him before she left. He agreed, and then, according to Zinone, they didn’t speak again until July 12, when he allegedly messaged her again, saying she looked so good it was “a bit tough to concentrate.” She claims she answer right away, but when she did she asked again for a meeting and he set up a lunch.
After he allegedly flirted with her over lunch, she felt flattered but confused and overwhelmed. “He was there to hit on me and manipulate the situation, and I fell for it,” she told Variety. “Here’s how I should have known what I was getting myself into. When we left, he told me: ‘You leave first, and I’ll leave after.’ In no lunch I’d ever had at Today had anyone suggested we leave separately, as if something was up.”
When they were back at the office, she felt as though she had “an out of body experience,” and messaged him. He then allegedly responded, asking to meet in his dressing room above studio 1A. According to her account, she reminded him he was married, but they met anyway. “He opens the door. There you go. It crossed the line. It was a consensual encounter. It happened in his dressing room above studio 1A, which was empty in the afternoons,” she said. “He got in his car and I had to go back to work, and now my life had completely changed.”
Zinone claimed their interactions happened multiple times over the next few weeks and they took a toll on her. When he allegedly asked her to come to his office one afternoon, she thought she’d finally get professional advice. “I sat across from him, and he pushes a button from his desk and the door shuts. It was embarrassing, because his secretary was sitting outside. He wanted to do stuff,” she claimed. “I was like, ‘No. I’m so in over my head. I’m not a performance artist.’”
The last time she saw him was that summer at the 2000 Democratic National Convention where he allegedly asked her to meet him in the bathroom. She did, as it was her last chance to talk to him. “So I went —and we had an encounter. He was like, ‘Alright. I’ll see you later,’” she claimed. “He had no interest in making sure I was cool.”
Zinone said that weeks after leaving the show, a reporter showed up at her house asking about their relationship — she said they were friends. When she messaged him and asked who he told, he allegedly “ghosted” her. She ended up quitting her local anchor job, feeling traumatized by the situation. She joined the Army, and during her second deployment, her friend Maria Menounos, who was working at Today at the time, pitched her for a story — a Today anchor in Iraq. The network passed and allegedly told Maria “Addie said something bad about the show.”
Zinone did later go onto Today for a Veterans Day segment. “This time, there were no barriers to me being on TV. So my husband and I come on to do a segment, and I show up, and guess who isn’t at work that day? It was super gratifying to be back on Today and surrounded by the people I love,” she said. “Ann [Curry] was interviewing me. If Matt was hiding that day, I certainly wasn’t.”
The former PA added that her situation was completely consensual but she still felt like a victim because she felt he had abused his power. “He went after the most vulnerable and the least powerful — and those were the production assistants and the interns,” she alleged to Variety. “I’m putting my name and face out there to squash any doubts about the allegations from other women against Matt Lauer. I’m validating their stories because some of our experiences are similar. I want these women to know that I believe them, I want to help empower them and collectively we have a voice to change things. I have a 7-year-old daughter. I want to do everything I can to assure this doesn’t happen to her.”
Last month, NBC News fired Lauer from the Today show after multiple women accused him of sexual harassment. “Some of what is being said about me is untrue or mischaracterized but there is enough truth in these stories to make me feel embarrassed and ashamed,” the former host told Us at the time.
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