In the wake of Matt Lauer's Today show firing for sexual misconduct, a woman named Addie Collins Zinone, who previously worked as a production assistant for the NBC program, has come forward with her own story about Matt acting inappropriately towards her in the workplace.
In a new interview with Variety, Zinone, 41, revealed she became close with Today stars Katie Couric, Al Roker, and Ann Curry while Matt remained distant — until he invited her to lunch after she decided to leave NBC in the summer of 2000.
"One morning, on June 8, out of the blue, I get a message from Matt Lauer. We didn’t communicate much over email back then, but we used a system called Top of Line, which was instant messaging for employees," Zinone wrote in the article published on Thursday, Dec. 14. "'Hey,' Matt wrote. 'I hope you won’t drag me to personnel for saying this, but you look fantastic. I don’t know what you have done, or what is going on in your life… but it’s agreeing with you.'"
Matt and co-anchor Katie in 2000. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)
"I thanked him, and I told him about my new job [and said], 'I’d like to get a little advice from you before I leave.' He agreed, and that was the end of our conversation for a while. A month later, on July 12, I got another message from Matt. I remember exactly what I was wearing — it was a skirt, heels, and a top. 'OK… NOW YOU’RE KILLING ME…YOU LOOK GREAT TODAY! A BIT TOUGH TO CONCENTRATE,'" Zinone recalled.
"'Okay, is someone screwing around with me?' I wrote back. I thought someone had stolen his log-in, because sometimes I would see Katie hop in a chair under someone else’s account and send messages to other people as a joke. He insisted that it was him. I again him asked for some advice, and he set up a lunch for the day after that," she continued. "I didn’t know what to do. He was obviously flirting. But I’d never seen anything like that from Matt before. As a 24-year-old production assistant, I had no idea how to interpret that. I could truly embarrass myself if I said something like, 'Where are you going with this?'"
"We went to lunch. My intentions were purely professional. I thought this was a way to get real-world constructive advice. What that turned into was an opportunity for him to come on to me. It was flattering, confusing, overwhelming. I was nervous. I didn’t know what to do with it. He was clearly trying to guide the conversation. He was there to hit on me and manipulate the situation, and I fell for it. 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," Zinone wrote.
Following their lunch, Zinone revealed Matt asked her to meet him in his dressing room. "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. He got in his car and I had to go back to work, and now my life had completely changed... Over the next few weeks, we met several other times," she recalled.
"The situation really took its toll on me. I changed physically. I changed emotionally. Fear crept into my life. I became unsure of myself. Any confidence I had was gone. For him, it was a conquest. One afternoon, he told me to come see him in his office. I thought he was finally going to talk to me and encourage me professionally," Zinone wrote. "I wanted to hear from him that I could succeed in [my new job in] West Virginia. 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. I was like, 'No. I’m so in over my head. I’m not a performance artist.'"
Matt on Today. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)
Zinone said the experience left her "distraught" and affected her work at her new journalism job after Today. "What happened with Matt held me hostage. I was under his spell. It was all-consuming. I couldn’t focus. I couldn’t concentrate. Every time I turned on the TV, because I anchored the local news in the morning, there was his face. And he was acting all jolly and happy. And here am I, carrying the weight of what had happened and fending off the national press. I didn’t want to start my career being known as one of Matt Lauer’s girls," she explained.
"Even though my situation with Matt was consensual, I ultimately felt like a victim because of the power dynamic. 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," Zinone contnued. "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."