Former Today show anchor Matt Lauer has denied a claim that he raped an NBC staffer in 2014, alleging instead his relations with the woman were part of a consensual affair.
In a letter sent to Variety via his attorney, Lauer detailed what he says happened between himself and Brooke Nevils, his colleague at the time, during the Winter Olympic Games held in Sochi, Russia.
Lauer admitted to having an extramarital affair with Nevils in his hotel room, adding that the two "engaged in a variety of sexual acts" and that "each act was mutual and completely consensual."
"There was absolutely nothing aggressive about that encounter," he said. "Brooke did not do or say anything to object. She certainly did not cry. She was a fully enthusiastic and willing partner."
But Nevils' allegation, which is detailed in journalist Ronan Farrow's newest book, Catch and Kill, tells a completely different story. (Variety published key excerpts from the book overnight.)
After being invited to Lauer's hotel room, Nevils said he pushed her against the door and kissed her. Lauer, Nevils said, then forced her onto the bed, flipped her over, and asked "if she liked anal sex," according to the book.
Nevils said she declined Lauer's advances many times, but that he proceeded to forcibly rape and sodomize her.
“It was nonconsensual in the sense that I was too drunk to consent,” she reportedly told Farrow. “It was nonconsensual in that I said, multiple times, that I didn’t want to have anal sex.”
She also told Farrow she blamed herself for later having a series of "transactional" sexual encounters with Lauer.
Years later, amid the #MeToo movement, Nevils reportedly went to NBC's human resources department to file a complaint after opening up to Lauer's former cohost Meredith Vieira. It was this complaint that then led to Lauer's sudden firing by the network in November 2017.
"Matt Lauer’s conduct was appalling, horrific and reprehensible, as we said at the time," NBC News told BuzzFeed News in a statement. "That’s why he was fired within 24 hours of us first learning of the complaint. Our hearts break again for our colleague."
In his letter, Lauer called Nevils' claim "a dangerous and defamatory new allegation."
"In a new book, it is alleged that an extramarital, but consensual, sexual encounter I have previously admitted having, was in fact an assault," he said. "It is categorically false, ignores the facts, and defies common sense."
On the Wednesday morning broadcast of Today, Lauer's former colleagues Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb, reacted to the news.
Guthrie said she supported Nevils and "any women who come forward with claims."
"It is just very painful," said Guthrie. "For all of us at NBC who are at the Today show, it is very very difficult."
“They are not allegations of an affair,” Kotb added. “They are allegations of a crime.”
Kotb later said of Lauer: “You feel like you know someone for 12 years, you feel like you know them inside and out, and all of the sudden a door opens up and it is a part of them you didn’t know."
In a tweet, Ann Curry, Lauer's former Today co-anchor, said Nevils "is a credible young woman of good character."
"She came to NBC News an eager and guileless 20-something, brimming with talent," Curry, who left the show in 2012, said. "I believe she is telling the truth. And that breaks my heart."
Amid the slew of sexual misconduct claims against Lauer that emerged with his firing, one detail that came out was that the host allegedly had a button near his desk that allowed him to automatically lock the door to his office.
But Lauer pushed back on this claim in his letter addressing Nevils' claim.
"It would have been impossible to confine anyone in my office, for any purpose, and I have never attempted to make anyone feel as if they were confined in my office,” he said.
“I have never assaulted anyone or forced anyone to have sex. Period.”
Once Lauer was let go from NBC, he said he chose not to speak out because he didn't want to fan the flames and make things worse for the people he loved most: his family.
However, in light of this latest news, the former anchor said, "For two years, the women with whom I had extramarital relationships have abandoned shared responsibility, and instead, shielded themselves from blame behind false allegations."
"They have avoided having to look a boyfriend, husband, or a child in the eye and say, 'I cheated.' They have done enormous damage in the process," said Lauer. "And I will no longer provide them the shelter of my silence."
NBC News Chairman Andy Lack sent the following memo to staff on Wednesday:
Dear Colleagues,This morning, reporting around Ronan Farrow’s new book revealed deeply disturbing details related to the incident that led to Matt Lauer’s termination from NBC. I want to take a moment to communicate with you about this. First, and most importantly, in reading today’s news our hearts go out to our former colleague.Matt Lauer’s conduct in 2014 was appalling and reprehensible – and of course we said so at the time. The first moment we learned of it was the night of November 27, 2017, and he was fired in 24 hours. Any suggestion that we knew prior to that evening or tried to cover up any aspect of Lauer's conduct is absolutely false and offensive. Following Lauer’s firing, NBCU's legal team did an exhaustive investigation of available records and conducted dozens of interviews of past and present staff. They uncovered no claims or settlements associated with allegations of inappropriate conduct by Lauer before he was fired. Only following his termination did NBCU reach agreements with two women who had come forward for the very first time, and those women have always been free to share their stories about Lauer with anyone they choose. Today, some have questioned why we used the term “sexual misconduct” to describe the reason for Lauer’s firing in the days following. We chose those words carefully to precisely mirror the public words at that time of the attorney representing our former NBC colleague. In the past two years we have taken significant steps to improve our culture and ensure we have a workplace where everyone feels safe and respected, as well as protected in raising claims. Since then, we've required all NBC News employees to complete in-person workplace behavior trainings and we’ve significantly increased awareness of the ways employees can report concerns – anonymously or otherwise.In addition to his reporting on Lauer, Farrow’s new book also includes his telling of the NBC News investigation of Harvey Weinstein.As you know, our news organization is filled with dedicated, professional journalists, including some of the best and most experienced investigative reporters, as well as others who support our reporting with exceptional talent, integrity and decency. It disappoints me to say that even with passage of time, Farrow’s account has become neither more accurate, nor more respectful of the dedicated colleagues he worked with here at NBC News. He uses a variety of tactics to paint a fundamentally untrue picture.Here are the essential and indisputable facts: NBC News assigned the Harvey Weinstein story to Ronan, we completely supported it over many months with resources – both financial and editorial. After seven months, without one victim or witness on the record, he simply didn’t have a story that met our standard for broadcast nor that of any major news organization. Not willing to accept that standard and not wanting to get beaten by the New York Times, he asked to take his story to an outlet he claimed was ready to publish right away. Reluctantly, we allowed him to go ahead. Fifty-three days later, and five days after the New York Times did indeed break the story, he published an article at the New Yorker that bore little resemblance to the reporting he had while at NBC News. Let me remind you of who we really are. Our journalists have been at the forefront of blockbuster investigations into sexual harassment and abuse on many stories – many pre-dating Weinstein – including USA Gymnastics, Silicon Valley, Bill Cosby, Jeffrey Epstein, and more. To get across the finish line on big stories like these takes exceptional work, collaboration, patience, and a commitment to a set of standards and practices that ultimately lends our work great credibility. If you have any questions about the journalistic decisions that were made, please don’t hesitate to ask. Similarly, should you have any questions about the decisions surrounding Matt Lauer’s termination, please do exactly what we all do best here, ask the tough questions. Thanks for your thoughtfulness and consideration.As ever, Andy