Lauer Accuser ‘Terrified’ That NBC Won’t Protect Her Identity

In an exclusive interview with NBC reporter Stephanie Gosk for Friday’s Today show, the attorney for the sexual harassment accuser of Matt Lauer revealed that the anonymous network staffer was “terrified” that NBC would allow information about her identity to leak out, even as there was “a hunt underway to figure out who she is.”  

“Does she live with this fear that she’s gonna be found out?,” Gosk asked attorney Ari Wilkenfeld about his client. Wilkenfeld warned: “My client is terrified. And she does live in constant fear that people are gonna, you know, track her down and figure out who she is. And she feels badly for the many other women who are suspected of being her, who are also being hounded and harassed.”

Gosk explained: “Little has been made public about his client’s relationship with Lauer, but according to NBC executives, the misconduct began during the 2014 Sochi Olympics.” She then noted: “Wilkenfeld says NBC hasn’t done enough to protect her identity.”

Turning back to the lawyer, she pressed: “Can you be more specific on where they’ve fallen short?” Wilkenfeld avoided any specifics, but scolded NBC for its handling of the situation:

I can say that NBC has a duty to maintain confidentiality. That means to maintain secrecy over her name and to hold to themselves the details of her story. And they have not done a good job of doing that. They know exactly what they’ve done and they need to stop.

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After Gosk read a statement from the network claiming it “has protected the employee’s anonymity all along and will continue to do so,” Wilkenfeld declared: “There’s a hunt underway to figure out who she is. And I think that’s going to have a chilling effect on other women who might want to come forward and tell their stories.”

Of his client, the attorney stated: “She’s been incredibly brave, and she’s helped protect the other women who work at NBC.”

In addition to the sit-down with Wilkenfeld, Gosk also highlighted a new accuser coming forward against Lauer: “Addie Zinone, a former production assistant for the Today show, says she had a month-long sexual relationship with Lauer in 2000, right before she was about to leave the company.” While Zinone characterized the relationship as “consensual,” she told Variety how she “ultimately felt like a victim because of the power dynamic,” being a 24-year-old intern at the time.   

Wrapping up the report, Gosk added: “I spoke with Zinone directly and she told me she had an amazing experience at the Today show until, in her words, ‘that all got annihilated in the last three weeks on the job,’ when her affair with Lauer began.”

As the reporter threw back to Savannah Guthrie, the host remarked: “Stephanie, thank you. This is important.”

Here is a full transcript of Gosk’s December 15 report:

7:31 AM ET

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: And also on this busy Friday morning, new information is coming to light surrounding the allegations against our former colleague, Matt Lauer. NBC’s Stephanie Gosk joins us now with that story. Stephanie, good morning to you.

HODA KOTB: Good morning, Steph.

GOSK: Guys, good morning. You know, since Matt Lauer was fired by NBC, there has been enormous speculation about who made the complaint that led to his ouster. The accuser has maintained her silence, but we sat down with her attorney, who has been working on cases of sexual misconduct for 20 years. To those searching for his client, he says please stop. He told us, she is terrified.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Attorney for Lauer Accuser Speaks Out; Break Silence, Says “Brave” Client is “Terrified”]

In his 20 years at the Today show, Matt Lauer had become one of the biggest names in the media world, but it took one woman coming forward with her story, according to NBC News, and roughly 24 hours later, he was gone. Her attorney, Ari Wilkenfeld, spoke with us exclusively.

ARI WILKENFELD: She showed her face, she gave her name, she told her story. And at the conclusion of the interview, she was asked, what do you want? And she said, “I want you guys to do the right thing. And also I’d like you to maintain my confidentiality.”

GOSK: What was it like emotionally for her?

WILKENFELD: I think it was difficult, like it is for all victims of sexual harassment. It’s scary. And that’s why many women want to have those meetings and then want to go home, close their door, and never be heard from again.

GOSK: Does she live with this fear that she’s gonna be found out?

WILKENFELD: My client is terrified. And she does live in constant fear that people are gonna, you know, track her down and figure out who she is. And she feels badly for the many other women who are suspected of being her, who are also being hounded and harassed.

GOSK: Little has been made public about his client’s relationship with Lauer, but according to NBC executives, the misconduct began during the 2014 Sochi Olympics. Wilkenfeld says NBC hasn’t done enough to protect her identity.

Can you be more specific on where they’ve fallen short?

WILKENFELD: I can say that NBC has a duty to maintain confidentiality. That means to maintain secrecy over her name and to hold to themselves the details of her story. And they have not done a good job of doing that. They know exactly what they’ve done and they need to stop.

GOSK: In a past statement, Wilkenfeld wrote that NBC acted “quickly and responsibly.” An NBC News spokesperson said, “The network has protected the employee’s anonymity all along and will continue to do so.”

WILKENFELD: There’s a hunt underway to figure out who she is. And I think that’s going to have a chilling effect on other women who might want to come forward and tell their stories.

GOSK: Wilkenfeld would not specify how NBC failed to keep his client’s identity secret.

WILKENFELD: She’s been incredibly brave, and she’s helped protect the other women who work at NBC. She’s also shined a light on the different ways women can come forward.

GOSK: Do you think that we are at an inflection point right now for our society?

WILKENFELD: I really hope so. And I hope we have the ability to go beyond outrage and beyond take-down jobs to actually fundamentally altering the way our culture works and the way that our workplace culture works. I think men need to be – men need to step forward, they need to start protecting women in the workplace when they see them being harassed.

GOSK: And this morning, another woman has come forward. The first to do so publicly. Addie Zinone, a former production assistant for the Today show, says she had a month-long sexual relationship with Lauer in 2000, right before she was about to leave the company. She says Lauer began sending her flattering messages, messages she printed out. Then he invited her to his dressing room. “It was a consensual encounter,” Zinone first told Variety, but she was 24 and he was one of the most powerful men in the company. “Even though my situation with Matt was consensual, I ultimately felt like a victim because of the power dynamic.”

NBC News declined to comment on the Variety story. Matt Lauer has been terminated by NBC for inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace.

I spoke with Zinone directly and she told me she had an amazing experience at the Today show until, in her words, “that all got annihilated in the last three weeks on the job,” when her affair with Lauer began. We reached out to Matt Lauer’s representatives, who said he had no further comment right now. Guys?

GUTHRIE: Stephanie, thank you. This is important.

GOSK: You’re welcome.

GUTHRIE: We appreciate it.

KOTB: It is.

This post originally appeared on NewsBusters

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