Matt Lauer Accuser Speaks
LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
This past week marked another milestone in the #MeToo movement. Besides a guilty verdict against comedian Bill Cosby, there was yet another allegation against a powerful journalist - a woman claiming she was harassed by NBC's Tom Brokaw. NBC News has also been under scrutiny for its culture because of allegations against "Today" show anchor Matt Lauer. He was fired in November after multiple women accused him of behavior that ranged from harassment to assault.
One of the women that came forward was former "Today" staffer Addie Zinone. She and Lauer had an affair she describes as consensual when she was only 24. But Lauer held all the power. And she was essentially powerless. And it did change the course of her life. Addie Zinone joins me now from Newport Beach, Calif. Thank you so much for being on the program.
ADDIE ZINONE: Thanks for having me, Lulu. How are you?
GARCIA-NAVARRO: I'm good. You came forward with your story in November. And you're the only woman who's gone on the record about Mr. Lauer so far. I'd like to ask you what your life has been like since then. That affair essentially changed your life.
ZINONE: It absolutely did change my life. And for 17 years, I sort - I tried as best I could to keep this story close to the vest. Of course, friends, some family knew. You have to remember I'm not particularly proud of this. This isn't something that I was going to go brag about. And I carried a lot of shame and guilt because I really did feel like over those years, I was on my own. I have said this before. But I knew with Matt, there had been other women because that was well-known in the tabloids, and those stories had followed him around. But I certainly didn't think that there were other staffers at "Today" who had experienced what I had because we hadn't heard of anything. So I felt very isolated and alone. Therefore, I carried it on my own. And I didn't really think, well, I was victimized here. I really was in a position where I felt like I had caused the problem.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: What did it do to you psychologically? I mean, after you left the "Today" program, you went to another job, and then you decided that you needed to do something else.
ZINONE: It took a toll on my self-confidence, my decision making. I think he preyed on the fact that I was very naive. And so for me as being a powerful person, having gone and believed in myself and gotten to the "Today" show and had all of these people, producers, talent believing in me - and then he only seeing the physical side of me and only wanting that out of me. It shattered my confidence. So I couldn't focus on my job at all as I was trying to start my journalism career.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Since you went public with what happened, has anyone at NBC reached out to you?
ZINONE: I have not heard one peep from anyone in management at NBC. Of course, I have heard from several colleagues, staffers at the "Today" show who I knew and used to work with - Ann Curry, dear, dear friend of mine - but no one from management. Nobody has called to ask me questions about how it happened and what our communication for the last 17 years - how we've managed it.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Do you have confidence that NBC can really change its culture with that being true - what you just said - that they haven't even reached out to you?
ZINONE: I would like to say I have confidence because my experience at NBC with that network and with that company - overall very good. And I have - you know, I hold them in high regard. I do feel that if it was going to be thorough - and you want to find out how that behavior continued for so long unchecked, as they say - then you would have to go back to at least, based on my documentation - that it can go back to the year 2000. So for me, I'm not filing a lawsuit. I am not trying to bring any more shame to him. But I do think that if they really want to get to the root of how this was allowed to happen for so many years, then you would have to come to me and ask how it all started.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Matt Lauer has since released his first statement to The Post. What did you think when you read it?
ZINONE: I thought it was very defensive. I thought - I think he is still feeling sorry for himself. I think that it's really sad if he doesn't view what he did as coercive or an abuse of power.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Have you spoken to Linda Vester, the woman who's made the allegations against Tom Brokaw?
ZINONE: I have. Not recently, but I have spoken with Linda. Linda reached out to me when I first came out with my story just to lend her support and to say that she also had a situation and an experience. And I didn't know who it was or what her specific situation was, but I did know that she felt empowered by my willingness to come out. And I also know that she felt a little fearful based on the reaction people had given me.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: What was the reaction?
ZINONE: Ridiculous. The reason I came out - ultimately, what made me do it is because I kept hearing the stories being planted by anonymous sources in People magazine, I believe in The New York Times, other articles. The one that got me in my deciding factor was - it said, he's human. He's flawed. But to suggest that he used his power to prey on the vulnerable, I just don't believe it. I need to see proof. And I thought, I don't know who was planting those stories. They very clearly believe in Matt and are on his side, but I have proof. And I'm tired of people discounting not what one woman is saying but many women are saying about him and saying that he didn't do it when I know he did it.
And I know he did it 17 years ago. And I also know that these people at NBC know me. I've stayed in touch with them. I'm friendly with them. I have credibility. And I need to have the courage to come forward to validate these women's claims because they are being dragged. He is being made to look like a victim. And I will not stand for it. And that's why I came out. And it has been awful. Frankly, it's been terrible. If you would've Googled my name prior to December 14 when my story came out, you would've heard about my military service. You would've heard about my philanthropic endeavors. You would see my journalism accolades. You Google me now, and I'm known as a whore ex-staffer who had a consensual, you know, relationship with Matt Lauer. I'm ruining the #MeToo movements. How dare I insert myself into something that is assault? That said, I wouldn't change a thing.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Addie Zinone is a co-founder of Press Forward, an initiative to stop sexual harassment and assault in newsrooms. Thank you so much.
ZINONE: Absolutely. Thank you, guys. I appreciate being part of this conversation.
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