A former "Today" staffer has come forward to describe what she called a consensual affair with then-host Matt Lauer in 2000.
Addie Zinone, known by her unmarried name Addie Collins when she was a production assistant on NBC's "Today," told Variety that she was going public "to squash any doubts" about accusations against Lauer. Lauer was fired from the show last month for alleged sexual misconduct, and other accounts of harassment and unwanted advances quickly followed.
The popular personality is among powerful men in media, entertainment, politics and sports toppled by revelations of predatory behavior, beginning with Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein.
Zinone told Variety that Lauer began sending her flattering intraoffice messages in the summer of 2000, when she was 24.
Eventually, the two met for a lunch that Zinone thought she could use for career advice because she was soon to leave for an anchor position in West Virginia. Instead, she said, Lauer aggressively hit on her, and the two had their first tryst later that afternoon.
"It was a consensual encounter," she said. "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."
Zinone said they met several times over the ensuing weeks, concluding with an encounter in a bathroom at the Democratic National Convention.
She said she eventually quit her anchor job and joined the Army "because I on my own couldn't deal with the fallout from this brief but intense relationship."
"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 ... I see the common threads and how he preyed on women, and I was one of them."
Neither Lauer nor NBC immediately responded to HuffPost's request for comment.
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