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On Oct. 23, 2017, Melissa Lonner, a former Today show senior producer, who left NBC News in 2013, tweeted #MeToo. Her tweet received 19 retweets. One of them was from Ann Curry. She added: “Empathy for my friend and colleague.” It was revealed in Ronan Farrow’s Catch and Kill that Lonner’s #MeToo story involves Matt Lauer.
Farrow recounts that, in 2010, Lauer used a business pretext to get her away from a company cocktail party. Once in an empty office, Lauer guided her to the sofa and proceeded to make small talk. He then unzipped his pants and pulled out his erect penis.
Lauer’s attorney, Elizabeth M. Locke, denies the claim. “Matt never exposed himself to anyone,” she said in a statement. “This ridiculous story has been shopped around for years. Many allegations that are being circulated were never raised during any fact-checking process. And despite repeated requests for an advance copy of this book, we have not been provided one, while many media outlets have. Matt will have more to say at an appropriate time, but he will not take part in the marketing circus for this book.”
The next day, Farrow writes, Lonner tearfully recounted the story to Curry. Lonner feared making a formal complaint. But Curry told two senior executives — she has never said whom she told. Curry also speaks to Farrow for the book, but she still does not identify the executives.
When Lonner left NBC News in 2013, Farrow writes that she was offered “a six-figure sum in exchange for signing a release of rights,” which precludes her from filing a legal claim. Farrow adds that in 2018, an NBC lawyer contacted Lonner’s attorney to remind her of the “enforceability of her pact.” NBC says the call was in response to a “query from Lonner’s attorney.”
NBC News president Noah Oppenheim on Oct. 14 released a furious rebuttal of Farrow’s claim that current management knew of Lauer’s behavior before Brooke Nevils took her complaint to the company’s human resources executives on the evening of Nov. 27, 2017.
NBC News has denied that Lonner raised any claims against Lauer or that her separation agreement was meant to muzzle her.
In his memo, Oppenheim writes: “NBCU was able to speak with one of those former executives during the 2018 review and she denied having been told even this. At the time of the employee’s exit, three years later, she still had made no complaint about Lauer, was paid 22 weeks of severance based on her years of service, and was asked to sign a separation agreement that was standard for departing employees at the time. The standard separation agreement included a routine confidentiality clause that was designed to protect proprietary company information. It was not drafted to prevent an employee from reporting misconduct, and it has never been used that way. (This employee made a complaint to management about Lauer, for the first time, after his 2017 firing.)”
A representative for Farrow counters: “These are now repeated claims made specifically by those with the most to lose from the truth. We stand by the reporting in the book, 100 percent, and believe that it discredits this attempt by NBC to rewrite the facts.”
Oct. 15, 11:00 am PST Updated to note that while Lonner’s claims are revealed in Farrow’s book, Catch and Kill, Lonner is not quoted.
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