Opinion| According to a report from Variety, Ronan Farrow’s most recent book, “Catch and Kill,” delves into his investigation into Harvey Weinstein, the obstacles NBC threw at him, and all the dirty details.
Farrow’s book mentions an interview with former NBC employee Brooke Nevils, who issued a complaint against Lauer in 2017, leading to his termination from the “Today” show.
According to Variety, “At the time, NBC News kept Nevils’ identity anonymous from press reports at her request. The full details of her allegations have not been made public until now. In the book, obtained by Variety, Nevils alleges that at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, Lauer anally raped her in his hotel room.”
In a public statement, NBC News said, “Matt Lauer’s conduct was appalling, horrific and reprehensible, as we said at the time. 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 attorney granted Variety access to an open letter in which all wrongdoing is denied. The former NBC host said, “In a new book, it is alleged that an extramarital, but consensual, sexual encounter I have previously admitted having, was in fact an assault. It is categorically false, ignores the facts, and defies common sense.”
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In Sochi, Nevils was tasked with working with former “Today” co-anchor Meredith Vieira, who’d been brought back to the show to do Olympics coverage. In Nevils’ account, one night over drinks with Vieira at the hotel bar where the NBC News team was staying, they ran into Lauer, who joined them. 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.
Nevils told Farrow, “It was nonconsensual in the sense that I was too drunk to consent,” she says. “It was nonconsensual in that I said, multiple times, that I didn’t want to have anal sex.”
Lauer answered the accusation in his letter saying, “I had an extramarital affair with Brooke Nevils in 2014. It began when she came to my hotel room very late one night in Sochi, Russia. We engaged in a variety of sexual acts. We performed oral sex on each other, we had vaginal sex, and we had anal sex. Each act was mutual and completely consensual.”
Nevils reported other sexual encounters with Lauer in New York City.
“Sources close to Lauer emphasized that she sometimes initiated contact,” Farrow wrote. “What is not in dispute is that Nevils, like several of the women I’d spoken to, had further sexual encounters with the man she said assaulted her.”
Nevils reportedly stated, “This is what I blame myself most for. It was completely transactional. It was not a relationship.”
Nevils had extreme concern when it came to Lauer’s power over her career. When the relationship with Lauer came to an end, Nevils stated that she mentioned it to “like a million people.”
“She told colleagues and superiors at NBC,” Farrow explained.
When Nevils moved to NBC’s Peacock Productions to become a producer, she “reported it to one of her new bosses there.”
“This was no secret,” Farrow continued.
Variety explains that “Nothing happened until fall 2017, when the post-Harvey Weinstein reckoning led former ‘Today’ colleagues to ask her about Lauer. Nevils told Farrow she then went to Vieira and told her what had happened. A distraught Vieira, according to the book, urged Nevils to go to NBC Universal human resources with a lawyer, which she did. 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.”
Farrow explains, “Nevils’s work life became torture. 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.”
“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 continues.
NBC News’ statement made it known that they moved quickly once the formal complaint was made against Lauer.