AceShowbiz - An ex-production assistant intern of NBC's "Today" has just revealed an alleged affair she had with former co-host Matt Lauer, who was fired at the end of November following a "detailed complaint from a colleague about inappropriate sexual behavior." Per Variety, Addie Zinone's (nee Collins) secret affair with Lauer, who was in his 40s and newly married, started in 2000.
Zinone, who was about to leave "Today" for a position as a local anchor on WDTV Channel in her hometown in West Virgina, alleged that Lauer invited her to lunch in July despite keeping more of a professional distance previously. Thinking that it would be her chance to ask him for career advice, 24-year-old Zinone went, only to find Lauer "aggressively hit on" her.
"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," she shared. "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."
After she got back to the office, Zinone said she "couldn't concentrate," prompting her to send Lauer a message. Lauer replied right away and asked her to meet him. "meet you where?" she asked, adding, "matt, think about this first…you have a wife."
"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," Zinone continued.
Zinone revealed that that "the situation really took its toll on me. I changed physically. I changed emotionally." She added, "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. I wanted to hear from him that I could succeed 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.' "
Zinone said that the last time she saw Lauer was at the 2000 Democratic National Convention in California. Lauer allegedly told her to meet him in a nearby bathroom, where they had "an encounter."
"He was like, 'Alright. I'll see you later.' He had no interest in making sure I was cool," claimed Zinone.
When working at WDTV Channel 5, a National Enquirer staffer allegedly was waiting for her in the driveway of her home. Zinone told the reporter that she and Lauer "were just friend," before later reaching out to Lauer. Lauer asked her, "Who did you tell?" and proceed to "ghost" her. "What happened with Matt held me hostage. I was under his spell. It was all consuming. I couldn't focus. I couldn't concentrate," Zinone, who is now married and shares two children with her husband, opened up.
She claimed that it was "so traumatic that I quit." Zinone, now 41, later enlisted in the army and becoming a member of the Army Reserve. She took a job at Access Hollywood in 2003, and three months later she was deployed to Iraq for a year.
In 2008, Zinone was sent to Iraq for a second time, when Maria Menounos, who was a "Today" correspondent at the time, allegedly called her. Menounos told Zinone that she wanted to pitch her as a story. But when Zinone returned to the U.S., she claimed that Menounos called and told her that a producer at the show said, "We're not going to cover her. Addie said something bad about the show."
"I was in complete disbelief. I had never met that producer, nor had I ever had anything negative to say about 'Today'," said Zinone. "That's when I knew I could never get rid of this thing."
However, she was invited back to "Today" after former NBC News president Steve Capus saw her at dinner banquet in Philadelphia. She was inducted into Temple University's Lew Klein Alumni in the Media Hall of Fame, while Lauer was also awarded that same evening. In honor of Veteran's Day, Zinone returned to the "Today" show with her husband. Lauer allegedly didn't show up to work that day. "Ann [Ann Curry] was interviewing me. If Matt was hiding that day, I certainly wasn't," Zinone said.
"Even though my situation with Matt was consensual, I ultimately felt like a victim because of the power dynamic," she added. "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. … He felt like he was untouchable."
"This is not an easy thing to talk about. Over the years, I could have spoken. I could have gotten money from the National Enquirer. I never did that. I'm not trying to get anything out of this situation, other than be another voice in this important conversation about women in the workplace," she revealed.
She added, "The things that Matt did to me, there are men doing to other women. Although it wasn't a crime in my case, it's still not right. Matt took advantage of his power. It's sickening. It breaks my heart that he did this for so long."