Addie Zinone, a broadcast journalist and former Today intern, detailed her secret relationship with disgraced former host Matt Lauer, in an interview with Variety. Lauer was fired from Today following multiple allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct.
Zinone was hired as a Today intern in January 1999 and was offered a job as a production assistant after graduating college. She worked at Today for a year before accepting an anchor position at a local news station in her hometown in West Virginia. Her relationship with Lauer began at the end of her tenure as an intern and production assistant on Today, when Lauer sent her a private note saying, "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."
While Zinone acknowledged that their encounters were consensual, she said she felt emotionally manipulated. "The situation really took its toll on me," Zinone said. "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."
Zinone thanked him, told him about her new job and added, "I'd like to get a little advice from you before I leave." A month later, Lauer messaged Zinone again, this time saying, in all-caps, "Now you're killing me… You look great today! A bit tough to concentrate." Again Zinone asked Lauer for career advice and the two went out for lunch, during which Lauer hit on her.
"My intentions were purely professional," Zinone said. "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. He was clearly trying to guide the conversation. He was there to hit on me and manipulate the situation, and I fell for it."
After that lunch, Lauer told Zinone to meet him in his dressing room where the two had "a consensual encounter" (Lauer was two-years married at the time). Zinone said she and Lauer "met several other times" before she left Today, including once in Lauer's office where he used the infamous button under his desk to lock the door. Their last encounter, Zinone said, was at the 2000 Democratic National Convention, during which Lauer told her, "Do you see that bathroom over there? Meet me there in five minutes."
Zinone said she was "distraught" after leaving Today, and not long after she began her new job in West Virginia, she was confronted by a reporter from the National Enquirer, who wanted to know about her relationship with Lauer. She dismissed the reporter, saying the two were just friends. Zinone said she was unable to slough off the weight of what had happened and eventually grew so depressed that she left her job.
"Even though my situation with Matt was consensual, I ultimately felt like a victim because of the power dynamic," she said. "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."
Not long after leaving her job at the West Virginia TV station, Zinone enlisted in the Army and began working as a journalist in the Army Reserve. She served as a correspondent for Access Hollywood and did two tours in Iraq. Since leaving the military, she has continued to work as a journalist and said that she decided to tell her story in order to help "squash any doubts about the allegations from other women against Matt Lauer."