Addie Zinone worked as a production assistant on NBC‘s Today back in 1999, where she expected to work toward her dream job of being an on-air journalist like Katie Couric.
What she got instead was a string of confusing workplace hookups with the accused daytime philanderer that went on to negatively impact her career, as well as her mental health.
Recounting the tryst to Variety, Zinone said she forged strong bonds with Couric, Ann Curry, and Al Roker during her months running the news on Today, but remembers Lauer keeping more of a professional distance — until she accepted a job in West Virginia.
One morning on June 8, the then-24-year-old received a message from Lauer on the company’s instant messaging system out of the blue. She says he wrote:
“Hey. i hope you won’t drag me to personnel for saying this. but you look fantastic. i don’t know what you have done, or what is going on in your life├óΓé¼┬ªbut it’s agreeing with you.”
Zinone thanked the newly married 40-something man and told him about her new position as a local anchor on WDTV Channel 5. The two agreed to set up a day for lunch, where Zinone understood Lauer would give her career advice.
But before they went out, Lauer stepped up his flirting game. One day when Zinone was wearing a skirt and heels, Lauer messaged her saying:
“OK├óΓé¼┬ªNOW YOU’RE KILLING ME├óΓé¼┬ªYOU LOOK GREAT TODAY! A BIT TOUGH TO CONCENTRATE.”
Zinone realized he was flirting, but still went to lunch with purely professional intentions. Though she didn’t get the constructive advice she was looking for, apparently — only confusing compliments and overwhelming flattery. At the end of the lunch, Lauer suggested they leave separately, something she’d never experienced before while dining with a Today colleague.
Zinone remembers being unable to concentrate once she got back to her desk. After sending Lauer a message, he is said to have replied “meet me” right away. Lauer reportedly ignored Zinone’s reminder that he had a wife and suggested the two meet in the studio dressing room. She agreed, and says the two had a consensual encounter.
The two allegedly met several times over the next few weeks, and each encounter took its toll on the young woman. Zinone recalled just wanting to be professionally encouraged by the industry vet, but only received fleeting physical pleasure.
After their last encounter in a bathroom at the 2000 Democratic National Convention in California, Zinone started her job anchoring the local news in her hometown. Just a few weeks into her new job, she recalled being approached by a reporter from the National Enquirer asking her about her relationship with Lauer. She told the reporter they were just friends, and later emailed Lauer about it — she says he responded by completely ghosting her.
Over the next decade, Zinone enlisted in the army and landed a job at Access Hollywood, but her history with Lauer went on to impact her career trajectory and her confidence. Even standing beside the other accusers, Zinone says, sharing her story is still terrifying for the mother of two.
Zinone made it clear that she’s not trying to get anything out of this situation “other than be another voice in this important conversation about women in the workplace.” What was a sexual conquest for Lauer turned out to be years of pain for the woman he took advantage of.
Now facing her fears, Zinone wants to do everything she can to ensure this doesn’t happen to the next generation of women — especially her 7-year-old daughter.
Click HERE to read Zinone’s full story — including transcripts of her old messages with Lauer.