When Matt Lauer was fired at the end of 2017 by NBC News, all we knew at the time was that the news organization had received “a detailed complaint from a colleague about inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace,” one that they determined was in “clear violation” of their standards and part of a pattern of misbehavior by Lauer.
Sources then revealed that Lauer had been accused of sexually harassing an anonymous coworker while in Sochi during the 2014 Olympics. But now, we’ve learned that his firing came after former NBC News employee Brooke Nevils alleged that Lauer anally raped her in his hotel room while in Sochi. The account comes from Ronan Farrow’s upcoming book Catch and Kill, in which Nevils’s identity and allegations are revealed for the first time.
Farrow’s book, according to Variety, reports that Nevils was working with NBC’s Meredith Vieira to cover the Olympics. As she told Farrow, they were having drinks one night at the hotel bar when Lauer joined them.
Here is how Farrow describes Lauer’s alleged rape, per Variety:
At the end of the night, Nevils, who’d had six shots of vodka, ended up going to Lauer’s hotel room twice — once to retrieve her press credential, which Lauer had taken as a joke, and the second time because he invited her back. Nevils, Farrow writes, “had no reason to suspect Lauer would be anything but friendly based on prior experience.”
Once she was in his hotel room, Nevils alleges, Lauer — who was wearing a T-shirt and boxers — pushed her against the door and kissed her. He then pushed her onto the bed, “flipping her over, asking if she liked anal sex,” Farrow writes. “She said that she declined several times.”
According to Nevils, she “was in the midst of telling him she wasn’t interested again when he ‘just did it,’” Farrow writes. “Lauer, she said, didn’t use lubricant. The encounter was excruciatingly painful. ‘It hurt so bad. I remember thinking, Is this normal?’ She told me she stopped saying no, but wept silently into a pillow.” Lauer then asked her if she liked it. She tells him yes. She claims that “she bled for days,” Farrow writes.
As Nevils told Farrow, “It was nonconsensual in the sense that I was too drunk to consent. It was nonconsensual in that I said, multiple times, that I didn’t want to have anal sex.”
After returning home to New York City, Nevils continued to have what Farrow describes as “sexual encounters” with Lauer, encounters that Nevils called “transactional.” According to Variety, Nevils was (understandably) “terrified about the control Lauer had over her career.” She reportedly told her superiors about their sexual encounters, but it wasn’t until the end of 2017, as MeToo was underway, that Nevils, with the urging of Vieira, went to the company’s human resources department.
Unsurprisingly, NBC executives reportedly made Nevils’s life a living hell. Again, per Variety:
After Lauer’s firing, she learned that Noah Oppenheim, the president of NBC News, and Andrew Lack, the chairman of NBC News and MSNBC, “were emphasizing that the incident hadn’t been ‘criminal’ or an ‘assault’” — which she claims caused her to throw up, Farrow writes.
“Nevils’s work life became torture,” according to Farrow. “She was made to sit in the same meetings as everyone else, discussing the news, and in all of them colleagues loyal to Lauer cast doubt on the claims, and judgment on her.”
And though Nevils had been promised anonymity by human resources, Lack saying internally that the encounter had happened at Sochi limited the possibilities of complainants — and soon, everyone knew it was Nevils. Though Nevils had not wanted money, she went on medical leave in 2018, and was eventually paid, Farrow writes, “seven figures.”
“The network proposed a script she would have to read, suggesting that she had left to pursue other endeavors, that she was treated well, and that NBC News was a positive example of sexual harassment,” Farrow writes.
In a statement to Variety, NBC News defended their actions. “Matt Lauer’s conduct was appalling, horrific and reprehensible, as we said at the time,” NBC News said to Variety. “That’s why he was fired within 24 hours of us first learning of the complaint. Our hearts break again for our colleague.”
On Wednesday morning, Today show hosts Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb directly addressed the newly revealed allegations against Lauer. “This is shocking and appalling, and I honestly don’t even know what to say about it,” Guthrie said. “I want to say I know it wasn’t easy for our colleague Brooke to come forward then, it’s not easy now, and we support her and any woman who comes forward with claims. And it’s just very painful, for all of us at NBC and who are at the Today show, it’s very very difficult.”
Kotb also painted herself as surprised by the news, though I personally take that with a massive grain of salt. “It’s like you feel like you’ve known someone for 12 years... and all of a sudden, a door opens up, and it’s a part of them you didn’t know,” Kotb said. “And we don’t know all of the facts in all of this, but they’re not allegations of an affair, they’re allegations of a crime. And I think that’s shocking to all of us here who sat with Matt for many, may years.”
She added, “Our thoughts are with Brooke. It’s not easy, what she did, to come forward, it’s not easy at all.”