Was flirting with Matt Lauer part of the job for the young female employees of NBC News?
It was according to Ronan Farrow’s new book, Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators, in which former NBC staffer Brooke Nevils alleged the disgraced journalist anally raped her in his hotel room at the 2014 Sochi Olympics without her consent.
As we reported, Lauer categorically denied Nevils’ latest detailed allegations against him this week, claiming in an open letter the encounter was “extramarital, but consensual” and the start of a lengthy affair.
But a source told People the 61-year-old had a habit of “flirting” with junior NBC employees long before Brooke came into the picture — and he allegedly retaliated against anyone who rejected his advances.
A former Today show colleague told the outlet:
“I wish I could say any of it surprised me, but it doesn’t. I guess I’m a little surprised that he still doesn’t get it, that he still thinks it was okay to have ‘affairs’ with co-workers who absolutely had every reason to feel nervous if they didn’t find his attentions flattering.”
Sounds similar to what Brooke told Ronan during their series of interviews; that she was terrified about the power the veteran host had over her career.
The source said many other female NBC staffers felt the same way, adding:
“If you didn’t find his ‘flirting’ behavior charming — and just using the word ‘flirting’ feels wrong, because it was so much more predatory than that, and it was not harmless — then you put a target on your back.”
In what way?
The source explained:
“If you didn’t find his comments about your ass or your weight loss, or your ‘beautiful eyes’ to be funny or flattering, if you dared to say it was inappropriate or worst of all, asked him to please not say that again, then you were either dead to him, like you really became invisible, or worse, you were someone he’d talk about in negative terms: ‘She’s so uptight, she’s not a team player, she’s really uncooperative, she’s got a terrible work ethic.’ You were either able to be ‘one of the guys’ with him, or you were in jeopardy.”
The insider went on to address Lauer’s lengthy defense letter, in which he described his relationship with Nevils as “completely mutual and consensual,” noting:
“That’s the Matt I saw — someone who could be vicious, especially when cornered or challenged… As for Brooke, I absolutely believe her. And I also believe that there will be elements of this story that will remain hard for people to understand — how you can find yourself numbly going along with something that isn’t what you want, only for it to take some time to realize how thoroughly you were manipulated and taken advantage of. How you were far less of a willing participant than you led yourself to believe at the time, because doing so at the time would’ve meant realizing how toxic and warped and unfair your situation was, which can be hard to realize while you’re in the middle of it.”
The confidant also gave a shout-out to Addie Collins Zinone, who revealed in 2017 an alleged month-long affair she had with Lauer when she was a 24-year-old Today show production assistant — and, on Thursday, blasted his “brazen and predatory abuse of power on young, vulnerable women who had no voice” — explaining:
“In hindsight, I think what Brooke is saying, I think what Addie said, I think what any of the women who come forward will say, will not only be the truth, but there will be a ton of similarities to each of their stories.”
Farrow, meanwhile, has also been busy defending the victims he interviewed for his book. The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist stopped by ABC’s Good Morning America on Friday to weigh in on the drama that unfolded since he released an excerpt from Catch and Kill this month.
After punching back at the defense letter Lauer penned, Farrow shed more light on the resistance he faced from NBC News in regards to reporting not only the details on Lauer — but his investigation into Harvey Weinstein, too.
Ronan’s hotly-anticipated book details alleged secret payouts at NBC News and how Lauer may have actually played a role in the network’s decision to kill Farrow’s Weinstein exposé that he eventually took over to the New Yorker to publish.
In the book, Farrow claims Weinstein used Lauer’s alleged behavior as a way to blackmail the network into killing the story on him. He wrote:
“Weinstein made it known to the network that he was aware of Lauer’s behavior and capable of revealing it.”
Farrow told GMA‘s George Stephanopoulos NBC News ordered a “hard stop to reporting” on Weinstein, despite the 31-year-old having a taped confession from Weinstein and multiple named women in his story. He explained:
“They told me and a producer working on this that we should not take a single call, they told us to cancel interviews. The question for years has been, why? Because every journalist at that institution didn’t understand why. And I think the book answers that question. This was a company with a lot of secrets.”
And the network didn’t want those secrets coming out, according to Mia Farrow’s son.
The journalist refuted NBC’s statement that his story took too long to come together and didn’t meet the standard for publishing, rebutting:
“They halted reporting and this book explains why. It is indisputable based on the evidence in this book that there was a chain of secret settlements at this company that were covered up with victims of harassment and assault. Some of them about Lauer, some of them about others in the company. This was a pattern; it was concealed from journalists there. This is bigger than NBC, it’s bigger than these executives. These are not highly public figures. The reason this reporting was important is because this is a pattern in media, in law, in politics; institutions that conceal abuse of this type let people get hurt and that’s something we should all care about.”
As for Nevils’ case, Farrow said the facts were extensively fact-checked and backed by documentation and eyewitnesses suggesting “there was an encounter here that she consistently has described as nonconsensual and she says that regardless of what happened before and after that and how he interpreted that, she said ‘no’ to a physical act.”
He also claimed when Nevils first reported the encounter to NBC, she and her lawyer made it clear that her night with Lauer in Sochi was nonconsensual. In a statement on Wednesday, she called Lauer’s defense letter a “case study in victim blaming.”
Watch clips of Ronan’s interview (below) for more.
[Image via WENN/ABC]