Zinone appeared on Megyn Kelly Today Monday morning to discuss the power dynamic between her and Lauer's sexual relationship, which she describes as consensual. However, she says the power dynamic makes her uncomfortable today.
Zinone says that Katie Couric helped get her an internship at the Today show right out of college and that she and Lauer, who was fired three weeks ago from NBC for "inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace," had a professional working relationship right up until her last weeks on the show.
But the professional relationship quickly shifted one day in June 2000, when Zinone says she got an instant message from Lauer one day, complimenting her on her appearance. Lauer was already married to his second wife, Annette Roque.
"[The message] said, wow, you look great," Zinone told Kelly. "I don't remember verbatim. Whatever you're doing with your life, it's agreeing with you. I thought, 'Well, that's nice.' "
Zinone thanked Lauer for the compliment and took the opportunity to let him know she was leaving the show soon to start a reporting job in West Virginia. She asked if she would be able to chat with him before she left to get some career advice, and Lauer agreed.
Zinone says a month went by without any word from Lauer. Then he sent her another awkward message.
"One day, I got another message that said, 'Okay, now you're killing me. You look great today. It's a bit tough to concentrate,' " Zinone recalled.
"And my first reaction was, is this really you? Did somebody sit down and steal your log-in?" she said.
Zinone says Lauer assured that it was him and said, "I hope you don't take me to personnel for saying this."
She took the opportunity to again remind Lauer that she was leaving and if he wanted to have the conversation they planned. So the next day he set up lunch — but the lunch did not go as Zinone planned.
"During the lunch, it didn't go to professional advice. It went quickly to accomplishing his goal. And I realized that," she said.
She says she knew what his intentions were when he asked that they leave the lunch separately.
“In that moment, I didn’t have anybody to sort of share my fears and confusion with except for him b/c what am I going to say to people?” Former TODAY staffer describes her 1st physical encounter w/ Matt Lauer on @MegynTODAY pic.twitter.com/8LqJcFh4vF— TODAY (@TODAYshow) December 18, 2017
Zinone says back at the office, where she was a production assistant, she was full of "nervous energy."
"I was trying to be normal...All this nervous energy and I didn't know what to do with it. I was confused. I thought, what is happening?" she recalled.
So she messaged Lauer, telling her how she was feeling "really nervous" and he suggested that she come meet him in his dressing room. It was there that they had their first sexual encounter.
"I realize that sounds very naive and silly of me because I walked over there to do that. In that moment, I didn't have anybody to sort of share my fears and confusion with, except for him. What am I going to say to people? This just happened," she said.
She says their sexual relationship lasted for about a month, then she went to West Virginia to start her new job.
Over the years, reporters have contacted Zinone for details about their affair. She says she assumed Lauer had affairs with other women, but felt alone in the work place.
"He did it so effortlessly with me. I thought, there have to be other women," she said.
"I didn't know there were other colleagues... I did feel alone and isolated and I just carried it," she added.
When she learned of Lauer's firing, Zinone says she felt some comfort "knowing I wasn't alone."
She said she decided to come forward because she heard people doubting Lauer's accusers.
“I’m coming forward to say ‘yes, this was consensual. It was an abuse of power’. I want to put a face and a story to these women’s accusations.”— Megyn Kelly TODAY (@MegynTODAY) December 18, 2017
– Addie Zinone former TODAY staffer speaks out on #MegynTODAY pic.twitter.com/dUuEIJ5tjJ
"I am coming forward and saying this was consensual. I want to put a face and a story to these women's accusations," she said. "I'm seeing they're being doubted. I thought, 'I have to validate their claims.' I have to explain it in embarrassing detail because I want them to understand the commonalities in our stories. And to be able to identify the exact same behaviors and predatory behaviors. I recognize them in the stories that I heard. That's how I knew with the behavior," she said.0comments
Despite being called a "a home wrecker, a slut and a whore" by those doubting her story, Zinone says she ultimately came forward after 17 years to address the power dynamic.
"He knew that I was leaving, and that there was no better prey than somebody who is going to be gone," she explained. "He went after the most vulnerable and the least powerful — and those were the production assistants and the interns."