A former “Today” staffer says Matt Lauer cheated on his wife with her and “took advantage of his power”

On Wednesday, November 29th, news broke that Matt Lauer, Today host and well-known American TV personality, had been dismissed from NBC due to sexual misconduct allegations. And now, a former Today staffer named Addie Collins (neé Zinone) says Lauer cheated on his wife with her and “abused his power” in 1999 when she was a 24-year-old production assistant.

In an interview with Variety, Collins recalled how in her last few weeks working on the show, Lauer — the most powerful man in morning television and one of her idols — began paying special attention to her. She said it started with complimentary, flirty messages, and became more intense when he agreed to a professional lunch.

"We went to lunch. My intentions were purely professional. I thought this was a way to get real-world constructive advice," she told Variety. "What that turned into was an opportunity for him to come on to me. It was flattering, confusing, overwhelming. I was nervous. I didn’t know what to do with it."

After the lunch, Lauer asked her to meet him in his dressing room, and so began the first of several sexual encounters between the two (Lauer had been married to wife Annette Roque for less than two years at the time). Collins noted that while technically consensual, she felt both manipulated and preyed upon.

“He knew that I was leaving, and that there was no better prey than somebody who is going to be gone,” she said. “He went after the most vulnerable and the least powerful — and those were the production assistants and the interns. He understood that we were going to be so flattered and so enthralled by the idea that the most powerful man at NBC News is taking any interest in us. He felt like he was untouchable.”

Collins revealed that Lauer ultimately lost interest, viewing her as a forgettable “conquest,” and that she carried the trauma of their encounter with her for years. “This man who I’d held on a pedestal had made me feel like my looks and my body were my true assets. He made it clear that he wasn’t interested in my skills or my talent. It just shattered everything,” she said.

Collins concludes her story by reiterating that Lauer’s actions were only possible because an entire network of people came together to help cover them up. “He was the golden boy,” she says. “His contract always got renewed for millions of dollars more, and he was the face of NBC.”

Collins story will likely resonate with countless women — and men — who have been put in compromising positions by men in power. While their relationship was “consensual,” Lauer used a clear power dynamic to take advantage of “the most vulnerable, and least powerful,” and it is unacceptable.

We thank Collins for coming forward with her story and shedding further light on this problem.