Former 'Today' Employee "Deeply Shocked and Saddened" by Matt Lauer's Open Letter

Matt Lauer - H - 2019

Addie Zinone, a former production assistant who says her relationship with Lauer was unbalanced — along with Brooke Nevils, who accused Lauer of sexual assault — took issue with the former co-host's self-defense on Wednesday.

Addie Zinone, who had a consensual relationship with Matt Lauer in 2000 that she said was an abuse of his power, released a statement on Thursday that harshly criticized the former Today show co-host's open letter that sought to defend himself amid the disclosure of a rape accusation.

"Mr. Lauer's attempts to slut-shame and rewrite history will not work," she said in the statement, which was provided to The Hollywood Reporter. "It is troubling he has no understanding of, or empathy for, the pain he has inflicted with his brazen and predatory abuse of power on young, vulnerable women who had no voice."

Zinone worked as an intern and then a production assistant for the Today show before leaving for a local television job. She was 24 when she met Lauer, who invited her to lunch and then initiated a relationship with her.

She pushed back strongly on Lauer's attempt to defend himself from accusations made by a former NBC employee, Brooke Nevils, and several other women.

"I was deeply shocked and saddened by Matt Lauer's letter yesterday in response to Brooke [Nevils'] allegations of sexual assault," Zinone said. "The seeming lack of contrition, misstatements, and threatening tone is an attempt to manipulate and control the narrative for his own gain. He is determined to undermine and tarnish the reputation of the brave women who courageously come forward. This is precisely why so many don't."

She continued: "Anyone who knows me will tell you I am a very private person. I had no desire to come out of the shadows from the pain his abuse of power inflicted on me in NBC's newsroom. I never had, nor do I have, anything to gain in telling my truth. In fact, I have everything to lose, but when I realized I was not alone, I was willing to lift the veil on that time to validate the accusations of others. I felt it was the right thing to do."

Nevils, who filed the sexual assault complaint that led to Lauer's ouster at NBC News, also responded on Wednesday to his lengthy statement. "I knew what kind of person Matt Lauer was when I made the decision to report him to NBC in November 2017, and I knew what kind of a person he was when I made the decision to tell my story to Ronan Farrow," she said in the statement, provided to THR. "In both of those cases, I asked that my allegations be thoroughly investigated, and that Matt be given the opportunity to defend himself. I provided dates, times, evidence of communications, and corroborating accounts. Both NBC and Farrow found me credible. As his open letter clearly reveals, there may be more than one Matt Lauer."

Nevils continued: "There's the Matt Lauer that millions of Americans watched on TV every morning for two decades, and there is the Matt Lauer who [Wednesday] morning attempted to bully a former colleague into silence. His open letter was a case study in victim blaming and concluded by threatening any other woman who might dare to speak out against him. This is the Matt Lauer, then the most powerful asset at NBC News, who I feared when I continued to engage with him, as many victims of acquaintance rape do, particularly in the workplace. This is the Matt Lauer I reported in November 2017. I was not afraid of him then, and I am not afraid of him now, regardless of his threats, bullying, and the shaming and predatory tactics I knew he would (and now has) tried to use against me. The shame in this story belongs to him.”

The rest of Zinone's statement is below:

"I already lived with reporters from the National Enquirer hounding me over the years; I was not going to give them that power again. No one wants to be known for these issues, but after this story broke in Nov. 2017, I decided I would no longer provide him the safety of my 17 years of silence, no matter the personal cost (which has been great, evidenced by every comment section under stories of my experience with him). Please do not confuse my willingness to speak up, however, with fearlessness. I'm petrified and humiliated that the world knows the intimate details of this experience.

"That said, here are the facts: I was a single 24-year-old intern-turned-production assistant; he was a married 42-year-old man, the most powerful and successful man at NBC, arguably in all of journalism. The trajectory of my life and career changed drastically as a result of this experience. I have never given false allegations when it comes to this story. To suggest I haven't been honest is a deflection, meant to ruin my credibility and reputation. I did look my (now) husband in the eyes and tell him about my participation in what happened all those years ago, and they have been horrible, guilt-ridden conversations. My children had to find out about it when they Googled my name and found words like 'slut' and 'whore' instead of the philanthropy and military service I proudly pursued in 2002 in addition to my journalism career. Mr. Lauer's attempts to slut-shame and rewrite history will not work. It is troubling he has no understanding of, or empathy for, the pain he has inflicted with his brazen and predatory abuse of power on young, vulnerable women who had no voice. But now we do. I have always admitted my part in this — I deeply wish I had been stronger — but he knows it should not have happened. It was wrong — full stop. It cost him his career; his reputation. He will live with that forever. To be sure, so will we. Journalists are tasked with exposing this behavior, not perpetuating it. Power corrupts and he is not immune.

"I am thankful for the opportunity to move the conversation forward and uncover the truth with assistance from courageous journalists like Ronan Farrow. We rise above our individual experiences and focus on the need to create systemic change through education, training, dialogue and helping the most vulnerable, so that what I experienced, no one will ever have to again."