A former “Today” show intern and production assistant has come forward to say she had an affair with Matt Lauer in 2000.
Lauer was recently fired from the show following sexual harassment allegations, and Addie Collins has made it clear that her relationship with the veteran newsman was consensual.
At the time, she was 24 and preparing to leave “Today” for her first on-air reporting job in West Virginia. Lauer was newly married and in his early 40s.
Addie, who now uses her married last name Zinone, tells Variety it started when Lauer reached out to her via an instant messaging service about a month before she was due to leave.
In the flirty messages, which she provided to Variety, Lauer praised her looks, writing things like “i hope you won’t drag me to personnel for saying this. but you look fantastic,” and “OK…NOW YOU’RE KILLING ME…YOU LOOK GREAT TODAY! A BIT TOUGH TO CONCENTRATE.”
They agreed to meet for lunch so she could get some career advice. Afterward, he messaged her to come to his dressing room. She resisted, replying, “matt, think about this first…you have a wife.”
He persisted, and she went through with the “consensual encounter.” She admitted, “Over the next few weeks, we met several other times.”
Collins detailed another tryst, claiming, “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," she went on. "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, ‘All right. I’ll see you later.’ He had no interest in making sure I was cool.”
Addie said the affair took a “toll” on her. “I changed physically,” she said. “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.”
She left for West Virginia, but ended up quitting the on-air job. “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.”
Collins added, “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.”
You can read her full account of the affair here.
After Lauer was fired, he shared a statement with “Today," in which he apologized for the pain and shame his actions caused others, saying, "There are no words to express my sorrow and regret for the pain I have caused others by words and actions. To the people I have hurt, I am truly sorry. As I am writing this, I realize the depth of the damage and disappointment I have left behind at home and at NBC.”
Lauer continued, “Some of what is being said about me is untrue or mischaracterized, but there is enough truth in these stories to make me feel embarrassed and ashamed. I regret that my shame is now shared by the people I cherish dearly. Repairing the damage will take a lot of time and soul searching, and I’m committed to beginning that effort. It is now my full time job. The last two days have forced me to take a very hard look at my own troubling flaws. It’s been humbling. I am blessed to be surrounded by people I love. I thank them for their patience and grace.”
“Extra” spoke with Lauer in 1998, ahead of his wedding, and asked if he was going to miss being a single guy. Watch the video: