Matt Lauer’s former NBC colleague accuses him of rape in new book

Stephen Battaglio
Los Angeles Times

The NBC News employee whose sexual harassment complaint led to the firing of Matt Lauer in November 2017 says she was raped by the former anchor, according to a new book by investigative journalist Ronan Farrow.

According to a report in Variety, which obtained a copy of the book, “Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators,” Lauer allegedly forced the woman, Brooke Nevils, to have anal sex in a hotel room in Sochi, Russia, while the “Today” team was covering the 2014 Winter Olympics.

Nevils, who was interviewed by Farrow and agreed to reveal her identity, worked as an assistant to Meredith Vieira, Lauer’s co-anchor at the time.

Former NBC "Today" anchor Matt Lauer

Nevils told Farrow she was drinking heavily the night of the incident. She had gone to Lauer’s room twice – once to retrieve an Olympics press credential that he had taken as a joke and a second time at his invitation.

Farrow wrote that “she had no reason to suspect Lauer would be anything but friendly based on prior experience.”

Nevils alleges that once she was in Lauer’s hotel room he pushed her against a door and kissed her before pushing her on the bed and asking her if she liked anal sex. She declined several times, but he “just did it,” according to the book. She said she wept into a pillow during the incident.

“It was non-consensual in the sense that I was too drunk to consent,” Nevils said in the book. “It was non-consensual in that I said, multiple times, that I didn’t want to have anal sex.”

Nevils told Farrow she had more sexual encounters with Lauer after the incident. She said she was fearful that he had control over her career. Farrow wrote that sources close to Lauer said Nevils sometimes initiated their meetings.

Nevils told Vieira about the Sochi incident in 2017. Vieira told her to report it to NBC’s human resources department with a lawyer. Lauer was terminated the day after Nevils and her attorney met with NBC.

In a report Wednesday on “Today,” the network said in a statement: “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 for our colleague.”

Lauer’s attorney provided an open letter from his client to Variety, calling allegations that the encounter was an assault “categorically false.” Lauer again said it was consensual.

Lauer has previously denied that any of the sexual relationships he had with women who worked with him were non-consensual.

“I want to make it perfectly clear that any allegations or reports of coercive, aggressive or abusive actions on my part, at any time, are absolutely false,” Lauer said in a statement he issued in April 2018.

Nevils’ allegations in the book stunned Lauer’s former “Today” colleagues, who reported on them on Wednesday’s program.

“This is shocking and appalling and I honestly don’t even know what to say about it,” co-anchor Savannah Guthrie said. “I think I speak for all of us when I say we’re disturbed to our core.”

Co-anchor Hoda Kotb, who was close friends with Lauer, also expressed dismay. “You feel like you’ve known someone inside and all of a sudden a door opens up and it’s a part of them you didn’t know,” she said.

The book, which was given in advance to the Hollywood Reporter for a cover story out Wednesday, also details what Farrow said are Harvey Weinstein’s efforts to use information about Lauer’s behavior to suppress Farrow’s reporting on the movie mogul’s alleged sexual misconduct.

An NBC News representative was not available for comment. But executives have denied the allegation, which has circulated as a rumor since Lauer was fired.

Farrow shared a Pulitzer Prize with New York Times reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey for his reporting on alleged sexual harassment, assault, rape and abuse of power by Weinstein during his long career. Farrow started his investigation at NBC News but left in frustration as executives believed he did not have enough corroboration to get the story on the air. Farrow eventually had the story published in the New Yorker on Oct 10, 2017.

NBC News executives have maintained that they supported Farrow’s reporting on the Weinstein scandal but would not budge from their position that he needed a victim or witness to the mogul’s alleged behavior to be identified on camera for the story the air.

NBC News executives have said Farrow’s reporting done at the network never reached the necessary standard for putting it on the air. They said none of the seven victims whom Farrow named in his meticulously reported New Yorker piece – Asia Argento, Mira Sorvino, Rosanna Arquette, Lucia Evans, Emma de Caunes, Jessica Barth and Sophie Dix – were willing to speak on the record or be identified on camera to discuss the allegations.