Matt Lauer responds to sexual assault accusation made in Ronan Farrow’s 2019 book

(L-R) Matt Lauer and Ronan Farrow. CP Images Archive

Matt Lauer has accused investigative journalist Ronan Farrow of “shoddy journalism” in his 2019 non-fiction book Catch and Kill, in which Farrow reported on an allegation that the former Today show host once raped an NBC co-worker.

After 25 years with NBC, Lauer was let go from the network on Nov. 29, 2017, when the media giant received a “detailed complaint” about him “from a colleague (alleging) inappropriate sexual behaviour,” according to a statement from NBC News chairman Andy Lack.

This complaint was expanded upon in Catch and Kill by Farrow, 32, citing Brooke Nevils, who reportedly made the complaint, as a source. In the book, Nevils claims that Lauer sexually assaulted her in a hotel room during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

In an in-depth article published to Mediaite on Tuesday, however, Lauer, 62, once again denies the accusation while also alleging that Farrow had not properly corroborated it in Catch and Kill.

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Matt Lauer attends NBC’s ‘Today’ at Rockefeller Plaza on Sept. 29, 2017, in New York City. Noam Galai/WireImage

Lauer’s piece was published only two days after New York Times reporter Ben Smith also published a piece questioning Farrow’s reporting. Lauer referred to the New York Times piece as “highly critical” of the Catch and Kill author’s “shoddy journalism,” journalistic standards and principles.

Referring to Farrow’s allegedly “misleading” reporting on the assault accusation against Lauer, Smith wrote: “Readers may brush aside these reporting issues as the understandable desire of a zealous young reporter to tell his stories as dramatically as he can.”

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After suggesting Farrow had not corroborated all of the points made in his critically acclaimed Weinstein exposé published in the New Yorker, Smith also suggested there was an issue with Farrow’s reporting on the allegation against Lauer.

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In Catch and Kill, Farrow wrote that Nevils had left Lauer’s dressing room crying after the alleged assault and told a fellow NBC producer — who she was also seeing — her story.

However, Smith writes that he called Farrow’s fact checker, Sean Lavery, to confirm they had corroborated this story.

Investigative journalist Ronan Farrow.
Investigative journalist Ronan Farrow.

Not only did Lavery confirm that he had not spoken with the NBC producer, but the producer himself denied ever speaking to the fact checker and claimed he “doesn’t remember” the scene that was portrayed by Farrow, Smith reports.

In response to Smith’s findings, Farrow wrote in an email to the New York Times journalist: “I am confident that the conversation took place as described and it was verified in multiple ways.”

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In Lauer’s recent 4,800-word criticism of Farrow, he wrote, “What I found when I read (Catch and Kill) was frankly shocking, and it should concern anyone who cares about journalism.

“This is not just about accusations against the former host of the Today show.”

Lauer was referring to the fact that Farrow, too, once served as a morning show host for NBC — before the MSNBC series, Ronan Farrow Daily, was cancelled in 2015 — suggesting that he was bitter towards the company after he left.

Ronan Farrow, a contributing writer for the New Yorker, speaks with reporters at the Associated Press headquarters in New York on July 27, 2018.

Furthermore, Lauer alleged that Farrow — who has won a Pulitzer Prize for his investigations into the sexual assault allegations against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein — was only trying to oust him to get back at NBC.

“He became a magnet and a willing ear for anyone with negative stories about the network and people who worked for it,” Lauer wrote.

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Lauer also suggested that many of Farrow’s sources shared a similar view toward NBC.

“(Farrow) cultivated many sources who were also disgruntled or who had been fired by NBC,” Lauer said.

He continued: “I believe that some of Ronan’s sources felt they could make outrageous claims to him, knowing he (and thus their stories) would not be doubted.”

Click to play video: '‘The Today Show’ hosts comment on latest rape allegations against former host Matt Lauer'
‘The Today Show’ hosts comment on latest rape allegations against former host Matt Lauer

Additionally, Lauer dubbed Nevils’ allegation a “promotional rollout for a new book by Ronan Farrow.”

On the allegations against him, Lauer said Farrow “used misleading language to manipulate readers into believing things that could easily be false, or were at least un-provable.”

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“In some cases, (Farrow) undeniably withheld information from the reader that would call the credibility of sources into question,” he added.

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Because of Farrow’s level of success and the “great deal of fear surrounding” sexual assault allegations, Lauer suggested that no readers or fellow journalists would have the “bravery” to “challenge him.”

“I believe Ronan knew his work on Catch and Kill would receive little in the way of scrutiny,” Lauer wrote.

“It’s the only way to explain why he was so willing to abandon common sense and true fact-checking in favour of salacious, and deeply flawed, material,” he added.

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Farrow, on the other hand, responded to Lauer’s criticism on Tuesday, claiming that Lauer’s accusation “is just wrong” in a condensed tweet.

Catch and Kill was thoroughly reported and fact-checked, including with Matt Lauer himself,” Farrow wrote.

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Nevils, too, appeared to share her thoughts on Lauer’s censure against Farrow via Twitter. Though she didn’t explicitly call Lauer out, her comments were seemingly aimed at him.

“DARVO: Deny, Attack, Reverse Victim and Offender,” she wrote.

While Lauer admitted he was having a “consensual, yet inappropriate relationship” with Nevils in late 2017, he denied the allegation of rape and has continued to do so.

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On Oct. 9, 2019, days before the release of Catch and Kill, Lauer’s attorney shared a letter that claimed “each sexual act” between he and Nevils “was mutual and completely consensual,” according to Variety.

“The story Brooke tells is filled with false details intended only to create the impression this was an abusive encounter,” Lauer claimed in the lengthy statement.

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On Tuesday, Lauer said he initially “intended to release (his Mediaite opinion) piece” last November, however he “delayed those plans” as a result of “personal considerations.”

He added that Smith’s New York Times story “prompted” him to “move forward with (his) own findings.”

Mediaite said its editors checked with four people who Lauer spoke to for his article and confirmed that they all independently backed up the conversations they had had with him.

NBC has fired Matt Lauer who has anchored the Today show for two decades. AP Photo/Richard Drew, File

Farrow’s publisher, Little, Brown and Co., said it fully supported the author, according to the Associated Press.

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“Ronan’s dedication to a deep and thorough fact-check of his reporting, his commitment to the rights of victims and his impeccable attention to detail and nuance make us proud to be his publisher,” the company said in a statement.

⁠— With files from the Associated Press

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