Brow Beat

Today Show Hosts Respond to “Troubling” New Details in Rape Allegation Against Matt Lauer

Al Roker, Savannah Guthrie, and Hoda Kotb.
Al Roker, Savannah Guthrie, and Hoda Kotb prepare for a segment on the set of NBC’s Today show on Nov. 29, 2017, in New York City. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Disturbing new details about the sexual assault accusation that led to Matt Lauer’s firing emerged on Tuesday after Variety obtained a copy of Ronan Farrow’s upcoming book, Catch and Kill, about his investigation into Harvey Weinstein and other alleged sexual predators. Lauer’s formerly anonymous accuser, Brooke Nevils, told Farrow that the ex-Today anchor anally raped her while they were both in Sochi, Russia, covering the 2014 Winter Olympics for NBC.

Nevils alleges that she was drunk when Lauer began kissing her in his hotel room and that he ignored her statements declining to have anal sex. “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.” Nevils says she eventually stopped protesting and “wept silently into a pillow,” and that she “bled for days” afterward. Lauer denied her claims in an open letter, calling the encounter “extramarital, but consensual” and writing that the allegation is “categorically false, ignores the facts, and defies common sense.”

“There was absolutely nothing aggressive about that encounter. Brooke did not do or say anything to object,” Lauer claims. “She certainly did not cry.” He also points to further encounters with Nevils following Sochi as part of his defense, accusing her of making up the assault charge for financial gain, including to try to sell a book. Nevils has acknowledged that the two later had consensual encounters.

Lauer’s former Today co-hosts responded to the “troubling” new details that were reported during a segment on Wednesday morning’s broadcast. “This is shocking and appalling and I honestly don’t even know what to say about it,” said Savannah Guthrie. “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 women who have come forward with claims. It’s just very painful for all of us at NBC and who are at the Today show. It’s very, very, very difficult.”

Hoda Kotb likened the moment to two years earlier, when she and Guthrie reported that Lauer had been fired by NBC News over what was then being characterized as “inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace.”

“You feel like you’ve known someone for 12 years,” said Kotb. “You feel like you know them inside and out, and then all of a sudden a door opens up, and it’s a part of them you didn’t know. And we don’t know all the facts in all of this, but they’re not allegations of an affair. They’re allegations of a crime. I think that’s shocking to all of us here who have sat with Matt for many, many years.”

According to Variety, Farrow’s book portrays Lauer’s alleged behavior as an open secret at NBC News, where Nevils says she told multiple colleagues and bosses about her encounters with Lauer after they had ended. It reportedly wasn’t until fall 2017, on the advice of Meredith Vieira, that Nevils went to human resources, accompanied by a lawyer. NBC News president Noah Oppenheim and chairman Andrew Lack are accused of downplaying the situation internally and failing to protect Nevils’ anonymity. Variety reports that she went on “medical leave” in 2018 and later received a seven-figure payout.

NBC News released a statement in response:

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.

The Hollywood Reporter shares another Lauer-related tidbit from Catch and Kill: Farrow writes that Harvey Weinstein and the National Enquirer’s chief content officer tried to leverage knowledge of Lauer’s behavior to convince NBC News to quash Farrow’s piece on Weinstein, which NBC called “preposterous.” Farrow’s reporting ultimately appeared in the New Yorker instead.