Inside Matt Lauer’s secret relationship with a ‘Today’ production assistant (EXCLUSIVE)

In 1999, Addie Collins arrived at NBC’s “Today” as a young intern with big aspirations. A few months later, she landed her dream job as production assistant, forming close bonds with her new colleagues Katie Couric, Ann Curry and Al Roker. But Matt Lauer kept more of a professional distance—until Collins (who now goes by her married last name Zinone) was ready to leave the show.

One day in July 2000, he invited her to lunch, which Zinone thought would be a chance to ask him for career advice. Instead, Lauer, who was in his 40s and newly married, started to aggressively hit on the 24-year-old employee. Zinone felt dumbstruck and numb. Intimidated by his stature, she gave in to his flattery, and she entered into a month-long relationship with Lauer, who would arrange to secretly meet her in his dressing room.

Lauer’s publicist didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment to this story. A representative for NBC declined to comment, since different managers oversee the news division now.

CREDIT: COURTESY OF ADDIE COLLINS ZINONE

Last month, NBC News fired Lauer from “Today” after another staffer complained to about his inappropriate conduct starting at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. After he exited, Variety published a two-month investigation detailing allegations of sexual harassment by Lauer toward multiple women. According to dozens of interviews with former and current NBC News employees, Lauer had a history of inviting colleagues into his office for sexual activity, and he’d use a secret button under his desk that allowed him to lock the door without standing up.

Although Zinone’s situation was consensual, she saw parallels between her own story and several accounts from the unnamed victims. Her situation is different than other allegations against Lauer, which involved unwanted advances. But it illustrates what can happen when a prominent person brings sex into the workplace, and there’s an imbalance of power. For Zinone, Lauer’s behavior had a devastating and lasting effect on her personal and professional life. Here’s her story, for the first time, in her own words.

58 PHOTOS
Matt Lauer through the years
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Matt Lauer through the years
Matt Lauer on June 27, 1986. (Photo by Arty Pomerantz/New York Post/Photo Archives, LLC via Getty Images)
Matt Lauer gets ready to call it a day after anchoring the NBC Local News on June 04, 1993. (Photo by Jerry Engel/New York Post/Photo Archives, LLC via Getty Images)
Matt Lauer during 1997 Lexus Challenge Hosted by Raymond Floyd at La Quinta Resort & Club in La Quinta, California, United States. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
UNITED STATES - MARCH 17: Matt Lauer (Photo by The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
Matt Lauer during 'Batman Forever' - New York City Premiere at Sony Lincoln Square in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Al Roker, Katie Couric and Matt Lauer outside the studio for The Today Show on the streets of New York City (Photo by NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
Matt Lauer (Photo by Deborah Feingold/Corbis via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: Matt Lauer on Thursday Nov.16, 2017 -- (Photo by: Zach Pagano/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
MACY'S THANKSGIVING DAY PARADE -- Pictured: (l-r) Hosts Katie Couric, Matt Lauer during the 2000 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade (Photo by Craig Blankenhorn/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
THE 91ST ANNUAL MACY'S THANKSGIVING DAY PARADE -- Pictured: (l-r) Today Co-Anchors Savannah Guthrie, Matt Lauer - (Photo by: Eric Liebowitz/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 07: James Nederlander and Matt Lauer attend the Elton John AIDS Foundation 25th Year And Honors Founder Sir Elton John During New York Fall Gala at Cathedral of St. John the Divine on November 7, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Nicholas Hunt/WireImage)
TODAY -- Pictured: Matt Lauer on Wednesday, November 1, 2017 -- (Photo by: Nathan Congleton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: Carson Daly, Matt Lauer, Hoda Kotb and Megyn Kelly on Wednesday, November 1, 2017 -- (Photo by: Nathan Congleton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: Dolly Parton and Matt Lauer on Tuesday, October 31, 2017 -- (Photo by: Nathan Congleton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 17: Norah O'Donnell and Matt Lauer during the Skin Cancer Foundation's Champions for Change Gala at Cipriani 25 Broadway on October 17, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Gonzalo Marroquin/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: Matt Lauer on Thursday Aug. 24, 2017 -- (Photo by: Zach Pagano/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
EAST HAMPTON, NY - AUGUST 12: Annette Roque and Matt Lauer attend Apollo in the Hamptons 2017: hosted by Ronald O. Perelman at The Creeks on August 12, 2017 in East Hampton, New York. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Apollo)
TODAY -- Pictured: Matt Lauer on Friday, Aug.11, 2017 -- (Photo by: Zach Pagano/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
SAG HARBOR, NY - JULY 3: Eric Fischl and Matt Lauer attend eBay Hosts July 4th Benefit for Sag Harbor Cinema Restoration Project at Lulu Kitchen and Bar on July 3, 2017 in Sag Harbor, NY. (Photo by Patrick McMullan/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: Matt Lauer on Wednesday, June 28, 2017 -- (Photo by: Nathan Congleton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
WATCH WHAT HAPPENS LIVE WITH ANDY COHEN -- Pictured (l-r): Savannah Guthrie and Matt Lauer -- (Photo by: Charles Sykes/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
WATCH WHAT HAPPENS LIVE WITH ANDY COHEN -- Pictured: Matt Lauer -- (Photo by: Charles Sykes/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 26: Journalists Matt Lauer and singer-songwriter Miley Cyrus on stage during Miley Cyrus performance on NBC's 'Today' at Rockefeller Plaza on May 26, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Gilbert Carrasquillo/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 15: (L-R) Journalists Chuck Todd, Matt Lauer, Savannah Guthrie, Megyn Kelly and Lester Holt attend the 2017 NBCUniversal Upfront at Radio City Music Hall on May 15, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Jim Spellman/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 24: Savannah Guthrie and Matt Lauer attend 2017 Matrix Awards - Arrivals at Sheraton Times Square on April 24, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Aurora Rose/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Hoda Kotb, Matt Lauer on Friday, April 21, 2017 -- (Photo by: Nathan Congleton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 08: Matt Lauer and Savannah Guthrie are seen waling in Midtown on March 8, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Raymond Hall/GC Images)
TODAY -- Matt Lauer's 20th Anniversary Celebration -- Pictured: (l-r) Katie Couric and anchor Matt Lauer on Friday, January 6, 2017 -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 24: (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) Matt Lauer hosts an exclusive guest DJ session on SiriusXM's Classic Vinyl channel to celebrate the launch of TODAY Show Radio on SiriusXM on June 24, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Robin Marchant/Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Tamron Hall, Natalie Morales, Savannah Guthrie, Matt Lauer and Al Roker appear on NBC News' 'Today' show on June 13, 2014 -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- (l-r) Matt Lauer sits down with Pippa Middleton in her first-ever television interview -- (Photo by: Anthony Harvey/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Dave Chappelle and Matt Lauer appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Tamron Hall, Savannah Guthrie, Matt Lauer and Al Roker appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC News Wire)
TODAY -- Pictured: Matt Lauer appears on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC News Wire)
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 22: Journalist Matt Lauer and singer Celine Dion pose for a photo during on NBC's 'Today' at Rockefeller Plaza on July 22, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Gilbert Carrasquillo/FilmMagic)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 12: (BROADCAST - OUT) Host, Matt Lauer speaks with swimmer, Ryan Lochte of the United States on the Today show set on Copacabana Beach on August 12, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Matt Lauer, Savannah Guthrie, Matt Iseman, Akbar Gbajabiamila appear on June 14, 2016 -- (Photo By: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Carson Daly, Natalie Morales, Al Roker, Savannah Guthrie, Matt Lauer, Maddie Baillio, Harvey Fierstein on the 'Today' show on Tuesday, June 7 2016 from Rockefeller Plaza in New York -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC News Wire)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 16: Journalists Matt Lauer and Savannah Guthrie attend the 2016 NBCUNIVERSAL Upfront at Radio City Music Hall on May 16, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Jim Spellman/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 27: Matt Lauer is seen on April 27, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Patricia Schlein/Star Max/GC Images)
THE TONIGHT SHOW STARRING JIMMY FALLON -- Episode 0459 -- Pictured: Journalist Matt Lauer arrives on April 27, 2016 -- (Photo by: Andrew Lipovsky/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 29: Matt Lauer at NBC's 'Today' at Rockefeller Plaza on April 29, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Laura Cavanaugh/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 26: Caitlyn Jenner and Matt Lauer attend the 2016 Time 100 Gala, Time's Most Influential People In The World at Jazz At Lincoln Center at the Time Warner Center on April 26, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Time)
NEW YORK, UNITED STATES - 2016/04/07: Matt Lauer attends New York City Police Foundation gala at Waldorf Astoria. (Photo by Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Natalie Morales, Savannah Guthrie, Matt Lauer and Al Roker appear on the 'Today' show on Monday, March 14, 2016 from Rockefeller Plaza in New York -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 14: NBC 'Today Show' hosts Savannah Guthrie and Matt Lauer interview Chris Martin when Coldplay perform in the rain on NBC's 'Today Show' at Rockefeller Plaza on March 14, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Al Pereira/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 21: (R-L) Savannah Guthrie and Matt Lauer interview 2016 Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump during NBC's Today Trump Town Hall at Rockefeller Plaza on April 21, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by D Dipasupil/FilmMagic)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Matt Lauer and Jordan Spieth appear on the 'Today' show on Monday, March 14, 2016 from Rockefeller Plaza in New York -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Matt Lauer and Jennifer Lopez appear on the 'Today' show on Tuesday, March 1, 2016 -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
WATCH WHAT HAPPENS LIVE -- Pictured (l-r): Matt Lauer and Savannah Guthrie -- (Photo by: Charles Sykes/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 18: Jack Matthew Lauer, Romy Lauer and Matt Lauer attend The Philadelphia 76ers vs New York Knicks game at Madison Square Garden on January 18, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by James Devaney/GC Images)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JANUARY 10: TV personalities Willie Geist, Natalie Morales, Tamron Hall, Savannah Guthrie and Matt Lauer attend the 73rd Annual Golden Globe Awards held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 10, 2016 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by George Pimentel/WireImage)
TV personalities Al Roker (L) and Matt Lauer arrive, at the 73nd annual Golden Globe Awards, January 10, 2016, at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California. AFP PHOTO / VALERIE MACON / AFP / VALERIE MACON (Photo credit should read VALERIE MACON/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 04: Matt Lauer is seen in 'Midtown'on January 4, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Raymond Hall/GC Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Co-Anchor Matt Lauer speaks with Aerosmith singer Steven Tyler and Dr. Stephen Zeitels about having laser surgery on his vocal chords, as shown in a new National Geographic special on NBC News' Today on October 19, 2007 -- Photo by: Virginia Sherwood/NBCU Photo Bank
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) C-Anchor Matt Lauer speaks with actor Denzel Washington about his new film, 'American Gangster' on NBC News' Today on October 19, 2007 -- Photo by: Virginia Sherwood/NBCU Photo Bank
OHIO, UNITED STATES - JUNE 14: 'Today' show co-host Matt Lauer (R) being congratulated by school President Robert Glidden (L) for receiving his bachelor's degree from Ohio University 18 years after he was a student. (Photo by Steve Kagan/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)
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Addie Zinone: I was just a small-town girl with a gymnastics scholarship from Temple University. I did four years of competitive gymnastics, and in my fifth year of college I studied broadcast journalism. At the time, ‘Today’ was at the peak of its success. I was obsessed with it. Wanting to be the next Katie Couric, I wrote her a letter. This was 1998. I didn’t have email. I somehow got Katie’s fax machine number. A month later, her assistant called and left me a message on my answering machine: “Katie got your letter and wants you to come and spend a day with her.”

She helped me get an internship at “Today.” In January 1999, I moved to New York with zero money, lived in a women’s Salvation Army home and worked my butt off in the studio. I formed really close bonds with Katie, Al Roker and Ann Curry, who showed me what to do, guided me, loved me, supported me. When I graduated that spring, a position opened up at NBC News as a production assistant, working the overnight shift. My dream had come true.

The unique part of my job was that when I ran the news in the morning, I was in the room where everybody sat when they weren’t on air. From there, I was able to forge these strong and awesome friendships. I felt so encouraged and supported, that I decided if I ever wanted to be these people, I had to leave and do what they did. In 2000, I accepted a position as a local anchor on WDTV Channel 5 in my hometown in West Virginia.

I only had a few weeks left at NBC. One morning, on June 8, out of the blue, I get a message from Matt Lauer. We didn’t communicate much over email back then, but we used a system called Top of Line, which was instant messaging for employees.

“hey,” Matt wrote. “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.”

I thanked him, and I told him about my new job. “i’d like to get a little advice from you before i leave.”

He agreed, and that was the end of our conversation for a while. A month later, on July 12, I got another message from Matt. I remember exactly what I was wearing — it was a skirt, heels and a top. “OK…NOW YOU’RE KILLING ME…YOU LOOK GREAT TODAY! A BIT TOUGH TO CONCENTRATE.”


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“okay, is someone screwing around with me?” I wrote back. I thought someone had stolen his log-in, because sometimes I would see Katie hop in a chair under someone else’s account and send messages to other people as a joke. He insisted that it was him. I again him asked for some advice, and he set up a lunch for the day after that.

I didn’t know what to do. He was obviously flirting. But I’d never seen anything like that from Matt before. As a 24-year-old production assistant, I had no idea how to interpret that. I could truly embarrass myself if I said something like, “Where are you going with this?”

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. 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.

I get back to the office and I couldn’t concentrate. It was like an out of body experience. I know that sounds silly to someone who wasn’t there emotionally, but I couldn’t sit still. I sent him a message, and he wrote back right away.

“meet me.”

“meet you where?” I asked. “matt, think about this first…you have a wife.”

“dressing room.”

“dressing room where?”

“studio.”

“i’ll be there in 20 minutes,” I said.

“I can’t stay that long…I have a car coming at 3:00.”

It was 2:42 p.m.

“okay,” I wrote. “i’ll be over there soon.”

26 PHOTOS
Matt Lauer and Annette Roque together through the years
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Matt Lauer and Annette Roque together through the years
EAST HAMPTON, NY - AUGUST 12: Annette Roque and Matt Lauer attend Apollo in the Hamptons 2017: hosted by Ronald O. Perelman at The Creeks on August 12, 2017 in East Hampton, New York. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Apollo)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 22: Annette Roque and Matt Lauer attend the 2013 Animal League America Celebrity gala at The Waldorf=Astoria on November 22, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Desiree Navarro/WireImage)
BRIDGEHAMPTON, NY - SEPTEMBER 01: Matt Lauer and wife Annette Roque Lauer attend the 38th Annual Hampton Classic Horse Show - Grand Prix Sunday on September 1, 2013 in Bridgehampton, New York. (Photo by Sonia Moskowitz/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 08: 'Today' host Matt Lauer and wife Annette Roque attend 2013 Tribeca Ball at New York Academy of Art on April 8, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Charles Eshelman/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK - DECEMBER 03: Matt Lauer and wife Annette Roque attend the 2008 UNICEF Snowflake Ball at Cipriani 42nd Street on December 3, 2008 in New York City. (Photo by Mike Coppola/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK - MAY 15: TV personality Matt Lauer and wife Annette Roque visit the 'Ye Waverly Inn' resturant on May 15, 2008 in New York City, New York. (Photo by Marcel Thomas/FilmMagic)
Actress Mary Tyler Moore, television journalist Matt Lauer and wife Annette Roque attend the Fifth Annual ASPCA Bergh Ball on April 25, 2002 at The Plaza Hotel in New York City. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
NEW YORK CITY, NY - APRIL 23: Annette Roque and Matt Lauer attend ROGER VIVIER Cocktail Party Benefiting CENTRAL PARK CONSERVANCY at Roger Vivier on April 23, 2008 in New York City. (Photo by BILLY FARRELL/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
NEW YORK CITY, NY - MAY 8: Annette Roque and Matt Lauer attend TIME MAGAZINE'S 100 MOST INFLUENTIAL PEOPLE IN THE WORLD at Jazz @ Lincoln Center on May 8, 2008 in New York City. (Photo by JIMI CELESTE/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
NEW YORK CITY, NY - MAY 8: Matt Lauer and Annette Roque Lauer attend TIME Magazine's 100 Most Influential People 2007 at Jazz at Lincoln Center on May 8, 2007 in New York City. (Photo by PATRICK MCMULLAN/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
NEW YORK CITY, NY - NOVEMBER 28: Matt Lauer and Annette Roque Lauer attend Baccarat Presents the 2nd Annual UNICEF SNOWFLAKE BALL at Waldorf-Astoria Hotel on November 28, 2005 in New York City. (Photo by Jimi Celeste/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
Matt Lauer, Annette Roque Lauer during Bergdorf Goodman celebrates Madonna's new book at Bergdorf Goodman in New York, New York, United States. (Photo by M. Von Holden/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK - APRIL 19: NBC 'Today' show host Matt Lauer and wife Annette Roque arrive for Time Magazine Celebrates New 'Time 100' list of Most Influential People In The World at the Time Warner Center on April 19, 2005 in New York City. (Photo by Paul Hawthorne/Getty Images)
Annette Roque Lauer and Matt Lauer during Escada and InStyle Host Benefit for the U.S. Fund for UNICEF at ESCADA Fifth Avenue in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/WireImage)
Matt Lauer, Annette Roque Lauer during Bette Midler Receives the Medal of Distinction by Lenox Hill Hospital at 2002 Autumn Ball at Waldorf Astoria in New York, New York, United States. (Photo by Sylvain Gaboury/FilmMagic)
Matt Lauer and Annette Roque during 5th Annual ASPCA Bergh Ball at Plaza Hotel in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
NEW YORK CITY - APRIL 25: Matt Lauer and wife Annette Roque attend ASPCA Bergh Ball Honoring Roger A. Caras on April 25, 2001 at the Plaza Hotel in New York City. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
370677 06: Today Show Host Matt Lauer with his wife Annette Roque Lauer attend The Fresh Air Fund Benefit, June 8, 2000 in New York City. The Fresh Air Fund is an independent, not for profit agency which has provided free summer vacations to more than 1.7 million disadvantaged New York City children since 1877. The annual event is held at Tavern On The Green in New York City. (Photo By George De Sota/Liaison)
Television journalist Matt Lauer and wife, model Annette Roque, at book party for Al Roker. (Photo by Marion Curtis/DMI/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
NEW YORK CITY - OCTOBER 21: Matt Lauer and wife Annette Roque attend Third Annual GQ Men of the Year Awards on October 21, 1998 at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
Nyc 10/21/98 Gq Magazine Honors 'Men Of The Year' At Radio City Music Hall. Matt Lauer & New Bride Annette Roque (Photo By Evan Agostini/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - OCTOBER 03: NBC 'Today' show host Matt Lauer and model Annette Roque leave Bridgehampton Presbyterian Chuch on Long Island after their wedding. (Photo by John Roca/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
NANTUCKET - JUNE 19: Nantucket Film Festival. Matt Lauer and then-fianc� Annette Roque at Bob and Suzanne Wright?s party at the Nantucket Film Festival, Nantucket, MA June 19, 1998 (Photo by Lindsay Brice/Getty Images)
Matt Lauer & Annette Roque during 1997 Lexus Challenge After Party at La Quinta Resort & Club in La Quinta, California, United States. (Photo by SGranitz/WireImage)
Annette Roque and Matt Lauer during 'Anchors Aweigh' Benefit for Muscular Dystrophy Association at Aboard Spirit of New York in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
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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.

I’m carrying this around with me. There’s no cell phone calls, no texts, no emails. The only time I have an opportunity to see him or talk to him is in the studio if there’s no one else around. It was a whirlwind. Over the next few weeks, we met several other times.

The situation really took its toll on me. 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. 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.

When I left “Today,” I was so distraught. One night a few weeks later, I’m anchoring the local news in West Virginia. I finish, get in my driveway and there was a reporter from the National Enquirer waiting for me. Holy crap. What’s happening? I reach out to Matt in an email. He wrote back, “Who did you tell?” After that, he completely ghosted me. He left me to handle all this on my own, which I did. I told the National Enquirer that Matt and I were just friends.

35 PHOTOS
Katie Couric and Matt Lauer together
See Gallery
Katie Couric and Matt Lauer together
MACY'S THANKSGIVING DAY PARADE -- Pictured: (l-r) Hosts Katie Couric, Matt Lauer during the 2000 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade (Photo by Craig Blankenhorn/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
THE TODAY SHOW -- Pictured: (l-r) Weatherman Al Roker, co-host Katie Couric, co-host Matt Lauer, co-host Ann Curry (Photo by NBC NewsWire/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Katie Couric, Matt Lauer -- Photo by: Darryl Estrine/NBC/NBC NewsWire
Matt Lauer, Ann Curry, Al Roker and Katie Couric at Al Rokers' Book Party for 'Don't Let Me Stop This Car! Adventures In Fatherhood' held at Fresco Restaurant. (Photo By: Richard Corkery/NY Daily News via Getty Images)
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 12: American television journalists Katie Couric and Matt Lauer hosting the NBC Today Show from Sydney Harbour on September 12, 2000 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Peter Carrette Archive/Getty Images)
MACY'S THANKSGIVING DAY PARADE -- Pictured: (l-r) Hosts Katie Couric, Matt Lauer during the 2001 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade -- Photo by: Eric Liebowitz/NBCU Photo Bank
Al Roker, Katie Couric, and Matt Lauer arrive for the NBC 75th Anniversary celebration taking place live in Studio 8H in Rockefeller Center in New York City, May 5, 2002. Photo by Frank Micelotta/ImageDirect.
Katie Couric and Matt Lauer during NBC 75th Anniversary Celebration at Rockefeller Plaza in New York, New York, United States. (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)
American television news achors Matt Lauer and Katie Couric at NBC's 'Today Show' Book Club launch cocktail party at Branzini Restaurant in The Library Hotel in New York City, New York, June 19, 2002. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Getty Images)
MACY'S 76TH THANKSGIVING DAY PARADE -- Aired 11/28/2002 -- Pictured: (l-r) hosts NBC News' Al Roker, Katie Couric, Matt Lauer at the 2002 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on November 28, 2002 -- NBC Photo: Eric Liebowitz/NBCU Photo Bank
Katie Couric and Matt Lauer during The 'Today' Show's 2004 Concert Series - The Rembrandts at Rockefeller Plaza in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by Derek Storm/FilmMagic)
Al Roker,Katie Couric and Matt Lauer during Queen Latifah Performs at the 2004 'Today' Show Summer Concert Series - September 24, 2004 at Rockefeller Plaza in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by Debra L Rothenberg/FilmMagic)
Katie Couric as Donald Trump, Al Roker as Oprah Winfrey, Matt Lauer as Paris Hilton and Ann Curry as Tina Turner (Photo by Gregory Pace/FilmMagic)
Katie Couric and Matt Lauer during Jennifer Lopez and Fat Joe Perform on The Today Show Concert Series - March 3, 2005 at NBC Studios, Rockafeller Plaza in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by James Devaney/WireImage)
NEW YORK - JUNE 3: 'Today' Show hosts Katie Couric and Matt Lauer wrap up the show after the Black Eyed Peas performed onstage during the Toyota Concert Series on the 'Today' Show June 3, 2005 in New York City. (Photo by Paul Hawthorne/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 14: Today Show host Matt Lauer jokes with Katie Couric at the signing of 'Today's Kitchen Cookbook' at the NBC store on September 14, 2005 in New York City. 'Today's Kitchen Cookbook' features recipes from chefs who have been featured on the Today show. Proceeds from the sale of the book will be donated to the T.J. Martell Foundation, a nationwide organization supporting research into treatments and cures of leukemia, cancer and AIDS. (Photo by Steven A. Henry/Getty Images)
Matt Lauer, Katie Couric and Gretchen Wilson during Gretchen Wilson Performs on the 'Today' Show - September 27, 2005 at NBC Studios Rockafeller Plaza in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by Derek Storm/FilmMagic)
Matt Lauer and Katie Couric (Photo by James Devaney/WireImage)
Matt Lauer and Katie Couric (Photo by James Devaney/WireImage)
MACY'S THANKSGIVING DAY PARADE -- Pictured: (l-r) Al Roker, Katie Couric, Matt Lauer -- (Photo by: Eric Liebowitz/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
NEW YORK - MAY 26: (L-R) NBC Today Show hosts Al Roker, Katie Couric, and Matt Lauer appear during the NBC's Today Show on May 26, 2006 in New York City. (Photo by Brad Barket/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - OCTOBER 24: Katie Couric and Matt Lauer at the NY Friars Club 'Roast' of Matt Lauer held in the Hilton Hotel (Photo by Richard Corkery/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
NEW YORK - MAY 05: TV Personalities Matt Lauer and Katie Couric attend the Museum of the Moving Image Honoring Katie Couric at the St. Regis Hotel on May 5, 2010 in New York City. (Photo by Ben Hider/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 01: (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) Joy Philbin, Matt Lauer, Regis Philbin, Katie Couric and Kathy Lee Gifford attend the New York Giants Super Bowl Pep Rally Luncheon at Michael's on February 1, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for New York Giants)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) 'Today' show co-host Matt Lauer talks with Katie Couric on NBC News' 'Today' show (Photo by Heidi Gutman/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 01: Matt Lauer and Katie Couric attend The New York Observer Relaunch Event on April 1, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 21: Matt Lauer and Katie Couric attend TIME 100 Gala, TIME's 100 Most Influential People In The World at Jazz at Lincoln Center on April 21, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for TIME)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 02: Journalists Katie Couric (L) and Matt Lauer attend the Tenth Annual UNICEF Snowflake Ball at Cipriani Wall Stree on December 2, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images for UNICEF)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 12: Matt Lauer and Katie Couric attend The Robin Hood Foundation's 2015 Benefit at Jacob Javitz Center on May 12, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Matt Lauer, Sally Field, and Katie Couric appear on the 'Today' show on Monday, March 7, 2016 in New York -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Matt Lauer's 20th Anniversary Celebration -- Pictured: (l-r) Katie Couric and anchor Matt Lauer on Friday, January 6, 2017 -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Matt Lauer's 20th Anniversary Celebration -- Pictured: (l-r) Anchor Hoda Kotb, Katie Couric and anchors Matt Lauer, Al Roker and Carson Daly on Friday, January 6, 2017 -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Matt Lauer's 20th Anniversary Celebration -- Pictured: (l-r) Katie Couric and anchor Matt Lauer on Friday, January 6, 2017 -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: Matt Lauer's 20th Anniversary Celebration (l-r) Anchor Al Roker, anchor Savannah Guthrie, anchor Matt Lauer, Katie Couric, anchor Carson Daly and anchor Hoda Kotb on Friday, January 6, 2017 -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
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What happened with Matt held me hostage. I was under his spell. It was all-consuming. I couldn’t focus. I couldn’t concentrate. Every time I turned on the TV, because I anchored the local news in the morning, there was his face. And he was acting all jolly and happy. And here am I, carrying the weight of what had happened and fending off the national press. I didn’t want to start my career being known one of Matt Lauer’s girls.

My experience on air as an anchor turned out to be so traumatic that I quit. I was in a depression. This man who I’d held on a pedestal had made me feel like my looks and my body were my true assets. He made it clear that he wasn’t interested in my skills or my talent. It just shattered everything.

Even looking back now with hindsight, at the age of 41, I can’t envision a scenario under those conditions that he created where I could not have succumb to his advances. I know that sounds naïve. I realize it might even sound dramatic. But that’s the truth. And now, with everything that’s come out, I wasn’t the only one. I knew Matt was unfaithful to his wife, because he was unfaithful to her with me less than two years into his marriage. He did it so effortlessly, with ease, and he wasn’t particularly concerned with the risk. But was I the only colleague? I had no idea there were other women out there. To wake up one day and hear my story in the accounts of the other victims is one of the most surreal experiences I’ve ever had.

After I quit my TV job, I went and joined the army. I’m not connecting dots that don’t exist, because it makes my story better. I went and joined the army because I on my own couldn’t deal with the fallout from this brief but intense relationship. What I found out is that I could be a journalist in the Army Reserve. In March 2002, I went off to basic training.

In early 2003, I moved to California, where I accepted a job at “Access Hollywood.” Three months later, I was deployed to Iraq for a year. When I came back, I worked as a field producer. “Access” put me on the air, and I did some correspondent work for them. It was the height of the war and celebrities supporting the military, so they thought it would be a good fit, which for me was an amazing step forward in my career. When I was on my second deployment in Iraq in 2008, Maria Menounos called me. I’m a good friend of hers, we had worked together and she was a correspondent for “Today.” She told me she wanted to pitch a story on me, as a former “Today” employee, going over to Iraq.

Apparently, others didn’t embrace the idea. I was in the Atlanta airport, on my way back to Iraq, when she called, “Hey did something happen on Today?” Maria asked. “It’s so odd. When I went to pitch this story, a producer said, ‘We’re not going to cover her. Addie said something bad about the show.’”

I was in complete disbelief. I had never met that producer, nor had I ever had anything negative to say about “Today.” That’s when I knew I could never get rid of this thing.

In 2009, I was inducted into Temple University’s Lew Klein Alumni in the Media Hall of Fame. I was invited to this big dinner banquet in Philadelphia. Ironically, Matt was also being awarded that night for his excellence in the media. Steve Capus, the president of NBC News at the time, was in the room, and after he saw me give a speech, he invited me to come on “Today” for Veteran’s Day. This time, there were no barriers to me being on TV. So my husband and I come on to do a segment, and I show up, and guess who isn’t at work that day? It was super gratifying to be back on “Today” and surrounded by the people I love. Ann was interviewing me. If Matt was hiding that day, I certainly wasn’t.

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.

There is no way he could have gotten away with it without others above him making these situations go away — manipulating, strategizing, whatever it is they did to wield their power against the powerless. It’s really a frightening place to be as a woman when you know you have a powerful force working against you. He was the golden boy. His contract always got renewed for millions of dollars more, and he was the face of NBC. How is any woman supposed to go up against that?

Despite the fact that Matt took advantage of me and it did impact my career trajectory, ultimately I turned my pain into strength and I landed exactly where I needed to be. And that place right now is as a mother of two amazing kids, a wife, a journalist, philanthropist and two-time combat veteran. I want to make it clear that I’m still very nervous and scared about telling my story. This is not an easy choice. This is not an easy thing to talk about. Over the years, I could have spoken. I could have gotten money from the National Enquirer. I never did that. I’m not trying to get anything out of this situation, other than be another voice in this important conversation about women in the workplace. The things that Matt Lauer did to me, there are men doing to other women. Although it wasn’t a crime in my case, it’s still not right. Matt took advantage of his power. It’s sickening. It breaks my heart that he did this for so long.

I’m putting my name and face out there to squash any doubts about the allegations from other women against Matt Lauer. I’m validating their stories because some of our experiences are similar. I want these women to know that I believe them, I want to help empower them and collectively we have a voice to change things. I have a 7-year-old daughter. I want to do everything I can to assure this doesn’t happen to her.

20 PHOTOS
Matt Lauer and his family through the years
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Matt Lauer and his family through the years
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 18: Jack Matthew Lauer, Romy Lauer, Thijs Lauer and Matt Lauer attend The Philadelphia 76ers vs New York Knicks game at Madison Square Garden on January 18, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by James Devaney/GC Images)
EAST HAMPTON, NY - AUGUST 12: Annette Roque and Matt Lauer attend Apollo in the Hamptons 2017: hosted by Ronald O. Perelman at The Creeks on August 12, 2017 in East Hampton, New York. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Apollo)
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 18: (L-R) Chris Rock, Jack Matthew Lauer, Romy Lauer, Thijs Lauer and Matt Lauer attend The Philadelphia 76ers Vs New York Knicks game at Madison Square Garden on January 18, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by James Devaney/GC Images)
BRIDGEHAMPTON, NY - AUGUST 30: Annette Lauer and Matt Lauer attend the 2015 Hamptons Classic Grand Prix on August 30, 2015 in Bridgehampton, New York. (Photo by Sonia Moskowitz/Getty Images)
EAST HAMPTON, NY - JULY 24: Matt Lauer (L) and Thijs Lauer attend the 'Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation' Special Screening Hosted By Alec Baldwin, Arrivals at United Artists East Hampton Cinema on July 24, 2015 in East Hampton, New York. (Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images for Paramount Pictures Studios)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 22: Annette Roque and Matt Lauer attend the 2013 Animal League America Celebrity gala at The Waldorf=Astoria on November 22, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Desiree Navarro/WireImage)
EAST HAMPTON, NY - AUGUST 17: Matt Lauer and son Jack attend the 65th Anniversary Artists & Writers Celebrity Softball Game at Herrick Park on August 17, 2013 in East Hampton, New York. (Photo by Sonia Moskowitz/Getty Images)
APRIL 26: Annette Lauer and Matt Lauer attend MUSEUM OF THE MOVING IMAGE honors MATT LAUER and DEBRA L LEE at St Regis Hotel N.Y.C. on April 26, 2007. (Photo by CHANCE YEH /Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 25: Matt Lauer and Jack Lauer attend the Milwaukee Bucks vs New York Knicks game at Madison Square Garden on March 25, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by James Devaney/WireImage)
Matt Lauer and wife Annette Roque Lauer during 2nd Annual UNICEF Snowflake Ball - Arrivals at The Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by Robin Platzer/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 28: (ITALY OUT; NEWSDAY, NY DAILY NEWS OUT) TV personality Matt Lauer (L) walks on Park Ave. with his son Jack February 28, 2007 in New York City. (Photo by Arnaldo Magnani/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - APRIL 19: NBC 'Today' show host Matt Lauer and wife Annette Roque arrive for Time Magazine Celebrates New 'Time 100' list of Most Influential People In The World at the Time Warner Center on April 19, 2005 in New York City. (Photo by Paul Hawthorne/Getty Images)
Annette Lauer, Elmo and Matt Lauer at the Cipriani in New York City, New York (Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage)
Annette Roque and Matt Lauer during ASPCA Bergh Ball Honoring Roger A. Caras at Plaza Hotel in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
Matt Lauer and Annette Roque at GQ Man of the Year, New York, October 21, 1998. (Photo by Steve Eichner/Getty Images)
NANTUCKET - JUNE 19: Nantucket Film Festival. Matt Lauer and then-fianc� Annette Roque at Bob and Suzanne Wright?s party at the Nantucket Film Festival, Nantucket, MA June 19, 1998 (Photo by Lindsay Brice/Getty Images)
TODAY -- 'Where in the World is Matt Lauer? 1998: Cairo' -- Pictured: NBC News' Matt Lauer, girlfriend Annette Roque in front of the Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut beneath the cliffs at Deir el Bahari in Giza, Egypt on April 27, 1998 -- Photo by: NBC/NBC NewsWire
TODAY -- 'Where in the World is Matt Lauer? 1998: Cairo' -- Pictured: (l-r) NBC News' Matt Lauer, girlfriend Annette Roque in front of the Great Sphinx of Giza, the Great Pyramid of Giza, and the Pyramid of Khafre in Giza, Egypt on April 27, 1998 -- Photo by: NBC/NBC NewsWire
Matt Lauer, co-host of the NBC television network morning program "Today" arrives with his wife, Dutch model Annette Roque, at the DreamWorks studio party following the 72nd annual Academy Awards March 26 at Spago in Beverly Hills. The DreamWorks film "American Beauty" won five Academy Awards including Best Picture. FSP
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Note: This interview has been edited and condensed from several lengthy conversations. Variety corroborated Zinone’s story through a friend she told at the time about her relationship and messages that she saved from her conversations with Lauer.

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