Former “Today” show host Matt Lauer is accused of raping an NBC News employee in 2014, the incident that led to his firing in 2017, according to excerpts from journalist Ronan Farrow’s upcoming book.
Lauer’s accuser, Brooke Nevils, revealed her identity and details of her allegation, including that she was raped, in the book “Catch and Kill,” which Variety excerpted on Tuesday.
In 2017, NBC fired Lauer after an NBC News employee told network executives the “Today” host sexually assaulted her at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. At the time, she wished to remain anonymous for fear of personal safety and professional repercussions.
The same day Lauer was fired, Variety broke additional stories from multiple other women of Lauer’s alleged sexual misconduct at NBC, and revealed that his alleged serial sexual predation was not a secret at the company.
Lauer emphatically denied the new allegations in a letter published Wednesday, in which he admits to having had an extramarital affair with Nevils but says the rape accusation is “dangerous and defamatory” and “categorically false.”
NBC News responded to the book excerpts Wednesday, calling his behaviour “appalling, horrific and reprehensible,” the network said 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.”
Lauer’s former colleagues, “Today” show hosts Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb, also responded on Wednesday’s broadcast of the show.
“This is shocking and appalling, and I honestly don’t even know what to say about it,” Guthrie said. “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 other women who have come forward with claims.”
“There are not allegations of an affair,” Kotb said. “They’re allegations of a crime. And I think that’s shocking to all of us here, who’ve sat with Matt for many, many years. I think we’re going to just sort of continue to process this part of this horrific story.”
According to Variety, Nevils told Farrow that Lauer anally raped her after a night of drinks with him and former “Today” show host Meredith Vieira, then a contributing host for the network’s Olympics coverage, and with whom Nevils was working at the time.
Nevils told Farrow that she went to Lauer’s hotel room to get her press credential. Lauer then invited her back for a second time, and she went because, according to Farrow, Nevils “had no reason to suspect Lauer would be anything but friendly based on prior experience.”
The excerpt from Variety goes on to detail the alleged rape.
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.
Nevils told Farrow that she informed many people about the incident, including her superiors. When she moved to a different part of the company, she also told one of her new bosses, but no one took action, according to the excerpt.
“This was no secret,” Farrow writes in the book, according to Variety.
It was only after October 2017, when Farrow — along with New York Times reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey — reported on the years of sexual abuse allegations against movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, catalyzing the Me Too movement, that Nevils’ story came to light.
According to Farrow’s book, NBC colleagues were reminded of Nevils’ claim and began asking her about it. She then told Vieira about the incident, who told her to get a lawyer and report the alleged rape to NBC’s HR department, which led to Lauer’s firing.
At the time, Nevils’ lawyer accused NBC of not doing enough to protect her and honour her request for confidentiality. Farrow’s book reveals that other employees were able to figure out that the anonymous accuser was Nevils.
When she left the network, according to Farrow, executives “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.”
Lauer’s firing also exposed NBC’s mishandling of the allegations, as many staffers had warned leadership of Lauer’s alleged misconduct, but the network failed to act, citing the fact that no one made any formal complaints against him. However, an internal investigation detailed that many employees described a culture of fear.
“Catch and Kill” also details NBC News’ attempts to dissuade and impede Farrow ― then an employee ― from investigating Weinstein’s alleged serial sexual misconduct. Farrow later took that reporting to The New Yorker. His work, along with that of Kantor and Twohey, uncovered decades of allegations against the movie mogul and attempted cover-ups by him and the people in his orbit. The ensuing Me Too reckoning exposed other alleged sexual predators and powerful institutions that looked the other way, including Lauer and NBC News.
This story has been updated with Lauer’s denial.
Need help? Visit RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Online Hotline or the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s website.