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- A woman told Variety that she had a brief relationship with the former “Today” show host Matt Lauer.
- The Variety story includes printouts of flirtatious messages she says Lauer sent her in 2000, when she was a production assistant at “Today.”
- Though she says the “encounters” were consensual, the story brings up questions about the complex power dynamics between powerful men and the women who work for them.
A former “Today” show employee told Variety in a story published Thursday that she had secret sexual encounters with Matt Lauer, the host NBC fired after allegations of sexual misconduct in the workplace surfaced last month.
Addie Zinone (then Collins) started at “Today” as an intern and became a production assistant. Zinone said Lauer kept their working relationship professional until she was about to leave the show for a job as a local anchor in West Virginia.
In June 2000, Zinone said, Lauer sent her a message on the office instant-messaging system.
“Hey,” Lauer wrote, according to printouts of messages that Zinone provided Variety. “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.”
A month later, the printouts show, he sent her another message: “OK…NOW YOU’RE KILLING ME…YOU LOOK GREAT TODAY!”
He added: “A BIT TOUGH TO CONCENTRATE.”
Zinone told Variety that Lauer invited her to lunch that month after she asked for career advice.
But at that lunch, she said, Lauer, in his 40s and newly married, started to hit on Zinone, who was 24.
Zinone, now 41, said she was so intimidated by his power that she gave in to his advances. She described multiple “encounters” in his office and his dressing room that she said he arranged during a monthlong secret relationship.
Zinone said that while her encounters with Lauer were consensual, other women’s allegations of sexual harassment and assault against him – including that he would press a button on his desk to lock his office after inviting in women – were familiar.
“The situation really took its toll on me,” Zinone told Variety. “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.”
The brief affair followed Zinone for years, she said, even after she left the news industry and joined the Army.
“Even though my situation with Matt was consensual,” Zinone said, “I ultimately felt like a victim because of the power dynamic.”
Lauer and NBC did not immediately respond to a request for further comment. NBC declined to comment to Variety.