On the heels of Matt Lauer's shocking firing from Today over bombshell sexual assault allegations, Addie Zinone has come forward about a secret steamy affair she had with the shamed anchor when she was production assistant on the show in 2000.
In an explosive open letter, Zinone told Variety about the beginning of her affair with newly married Lauer, now 59. “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."
It all started when Lauer sent Zinone a disturbing message, just weeks before she was to leave NBC for a job as a local anchor on WDTV Channel 5 in her hometown in West Virginia.
“hey,” Matt wrote to her via a system called Top of Line, which was instant messaging for employees. “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.”
At the end of the chat, the two agreed to meet up to "get his advice" before she left on her next career venture.
A little over a month had gone by and on July 12 she received another cryptic text: “OK…NOW YOU’RE KILLING ME…YOU LOOK GREAT TODAY! A BIT TOUGH TO CONCENTRATE.” Zinone recalls she was wearing a skirt and heels that day.
The next day they went to lunch the next day, and while Zinone says her intentions were purely professional, she insists Lauer's were not.
"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" Zinone recalls." 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."
That's when things really took a turn — and before she knew it, just hours after their lunch, Zinone was in a then newly married Lauer's dressing room having an affair.
After their secret encounter, Zinone would then proceed to meet with Lauer in the coming weeks. "It was a whirlwind. Over the next few weeks, we met several other times," she said.
"The situation really took its toll on me," she admits. "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. 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.'"
The last time I saw him that summer was at the 2000 Democratic National Convention in California. The Today Show was live from the Staples Center floor. He was looking at a script, and he leaned over and said to me, “Do you see that bathroom over there? Meet me there in five minutes.” I was leaving and I had no other chance to talk to him. So I went—and we had an encounter. He was like, 'Alright. I’ll see you later.' He had no interest in making sure I was cool."
She concludes: "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. 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."
As readers know, Lauer was fired from his longtime hosting position at NBC’s Today Show. The network shared a statement on the matter, claiming they had never received a complaint about him, but had reason to believe the claims were true.
NBC’s second-in-command, Noah Oppenheim reportedly even said that if they were to find out that someone knew of Lauer’s behavior and refused to speak out, that person would be severely punished.
Lauer admitted to his actions in a shocking statement after the incident, claiming he was “ashamed” and would be taking time to reflect his actions and better himself as a person.
As Radar previously reported exclusively, multiple insiders have revealed that Lauer and his wife of 18 years, Annette Roque, are all but finished as a couple.
“Matt’s marriage is over” noted the insider.
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