Addie Collins Zinone, the former production assistant who says she engaged in a sexual relationship with married Matt Lauer in 2000, has divulged new revelations about the torrid affair with the now disgraced talk show host and its painful aftermath.
Zinone appeared Monday morning on Megyn Kelly's ratings-challenged section of the "Today" show and shared more details about her monthlong affair with Kelly's former co-host.
Zinone said she started her journalism career as a PA on the set of “Today” after Katie Couric helped her land the gig upon graduating college. Having worked with most of the “Today” anchors, Zinone explained that she and Lauer had a “strictly professional relationship” for the majority of her time at the network.
But things changed in June of 2000, when Zinone received her first instant message from Lauer.
“It said, 'Wow, you look great.' I don't remember verbatim. Whatever you're doing with your life, it's agreeing with you. Just wanted to let you know,” Zinone recalled. “I thought, 'Well, that's nice'.”
Using this as an opportunity, she followed up with Lauer and told him of her plans to leave the show in the upcoming weeks for an anchor position in West Virginia, and wondered if she could sit down with the “Today” host to get some advice before leaving. Lauer agreed, but Zinone didn’t hear another word from him until she received another message from the host a month later.
My family is shattered by this. They are afraid for me
“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 said, explaining that she thought the message was a joke. But she still again took the opportunity to ask Lauer if he would be willing to sit down with her and, immediately after, he set up a lunch for them the next day.
The lunch, Zinone told Kelly, quickly went from casual conversation to Lauer “accomplishing his goal” of hitting on her. And though Zinone felt awkward, the advances didn’t end at lunch. Lauer succeeded in luring Zinone to his dressing room, where the two had their first alleged sexual encounter later that afternoon.
At the time, Zinone was 24 and Lauer was in his early 40s and on his second marriage.
“I realize that sounds very naive and silly of me because I walked over there to do that,” Zinone admitted. “But in that moment, I didn’t have anybody to share my fears and confusion with except for him, because what am I going to say to people?”
Their alleged affair lasted about a month and though Zinone felt that Lauer steered her into the uncomfortable situation, she takes full responsibility for her actions calling them a “massive mistake” that has continued to haunt her.
“These are very hard things to talk about,” she admitted. “My family is shattered by this. They are afraid for me. This all trickles down to a lot of people that are affected, so having these conversations is really important, but also there’s a lot of shame attached to what I did.”
Zinone struggled with hiding her story for 17 years and was fearful of opening up to the world about her shame.
“I know who I am at my core, I know the values I have, but of course you carry shame,” she said. “Because again, he has a wife. Even now, I don’t want to pour salt on these wounds, and that’s a really scary thing. You do carry that your whole life.”
Lauer was fired from his 20-year post as anchor of NBC’s “Today” show in November, after a former employee he had worked with accused the veteran TV man of sexual misconduct. Since Lauer’s firing, several women have come forward to reveal their stories about the news anchor.
Zinone initially opened up to Variety about her affair with Lauer, and she told Kelly she is looking forward to guiding her own conversation about her experience and helping women through similar work situations.
“I want to guide the conversation away from that, own my part in it, but then also talk about this power dynamic in a workplace and how that balance really does affect your thinking, your ability to think logically, to be aware of what you’re doing and the impact it’s going to have the rest of your life,” she said.
“And also, if you do find yourself in the situation like I did, how can we empower young women in the future (...) to get themselves back, to make better decisions — to not make a mistake like I did.”