In light of the allegation that Matt Lauer raped his former NBC News colleague Brooke Nevils, a source says employees at the network were long aware of his extramarital encounters, if not any alleged assault.
On Wednesday, Variety published details from Ronan Farrow‘s Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators. In the upcoming book, Nevils alleges that Lauer anally raped her in his hotel room at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
“It was nonconsensual in the sense that I was too drunk to consent,” she reportedly tells Farrow in the book. “It was nonconsensual in that I said, multiple times, that I didn’t want to have anal sex.”
The ousted Today co-anchor, who recently finalized his divorce from longtime wife Annette Roque, penned a lengthy letter in response, claiming the encounter was “extramarital, but consensual.”
“People knew Lauer was having affairs but nobody ever knew it was with people associated with NBC,” a source tells PEOPLE. “People knew he would act overly flirtatious with the junior employees around the office. He would take them out for drinks, maybe not to get them drunk, but it wasn’t uncommon that he would go out for drinks with junior people at NBC.”
“He didn’t care if he was seen out with them,” the source adds. “It wasn’t very private or secretive. He was in the papers being seen with young blondes.”
In Wednesday’s letter, Lauer, who was fired in November 2017 due to Nevils’ complaint, said the encounter in Sochi was the beginning of his affair with Nevils and “the first of many sexual encounters between us over the next several months.”
“At no time, during or after her multiple visits to my apartment, did she express in words or actions any discomfort with being there, or with our affair,” he said. “She also went out of her way to see me several times in my dressing room at work, and on one of those occasions we had a sexual encounter. It showed terrible judgment on my part, but it was completely mutual and consensual.”
Lauer, who pointed out what he claims are “contradictions” in Nevils’ story, also acknowledged that people were aware of the affair.
“There are people who fully understand the actual dynamic that existed between Brooke and me,” he said. “They have reluctantly and quietly reached out in the past two years and shared what they know. They have accurately described Brooke and her role in this affair. I hope those people will understand that these allegations cross a serious line, and what they can share is a vital truth, even if it may seem unpopular.”
Lauer concluded by stating that he has “never assaulted anyone or forced anyone to have sex. Period.”
After Lauer’s firing in 2017, several insiders told PEOPLE that the veteran morning host was often unfaithful to Roque, a former Dutch model whom he wed in 1998 after meeting on a blind date.
“By Matt’s own admission there were struggles and challenges with his wife,” said one source at the time. “Like many couples, they struggled with a modern marriage.”
A former longtime colleague of Lauer’s said the marriage “was never good,” adding that Lauer’s reputation as a ladies’ man bothered his wife even before they wed.
“He was a player when she met him and she knew that,” the colleague said. “Even many years ago, he was a flirt, a philanderer. He did his thing.”
In a statement read on-air Wednesday on the Today show, 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.”
His former colleagues, Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb, said on-air Wednesday that they were “disturbed to our core” by Nevils’ claims.
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, please contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) or go to online.rainn.org.
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