Ronan Farrow defends book saying Matt Lauer accusations 'extensively fact-checked'

ABC News(NEW YORK) — Investigative journalist Ronan Farrow spoke with ABC News’ Good Morning America Friday about the revelations from his upcoming book on reporting stories that fueled the #MeToo movement.

A portion of Farrow’s upcoming book, Catch and Kill, includes the allegation from a former NBC News producer that Matt Lauer raped her while they were covering the Sochi Olympics in 2014.

Farrow said on Good Morning America he “can’t answer specific questions” about whether or not Lauer spoke to him for the book but said that the book was “extensively fact checked.”

His accuser, first identified in Farrow’s book as Brooke Nevils, worked as a producer for Today co-anchor Meredith Vieira at the time of the Olympics. On GMA, Farrow said that Nevils “consistently has described” the incident in Sochi “as non-consensual.”

Farrow wrote that Nevils told Farrow she and Vieira were at the hotel bar and Lauer joined them. After six drinks, Nevils said she went to Lauer’s hotel room twice later that night, first to get her press credentials, which Lauer had allegedly taken as a joke, and later at his invitation.

According to Farrow, Nevils alleges that on that second trip to his room, Lauer, who was wearing a T-shirt and boxers, pushed her against the door and kissed her, pushed her onto the bed and asked if she wanted to have anal sex. Farrow wrote that Nevils “declined several times” and “she was in the midst of telling him she wasn’t interested again when he ‘just did it.'”

“It was nonconsensual in the sense that I was too drunk to consent. … It was nonconsensual in that I said, multiple times, that I didn’t want to have anal sex,” Nevils told Farrow.

Lauer released a lengthy letter on Wednesday in response to the allegations calling this account “categorically false.” He describes the relationship as an “extramarital affair” that began in Sochi, saying that night in his hotel room “we performed oral sex on each other, we had vaginal sex, and we had anal sex. Each act was mutual and completely consensual.”

Lauer also insisted, “There was absolutely nothing aggressive about that encounter… she was a fully enthusiastic and willing partner. At no time did she behave in a way that made it appear she was incapable of consent…She embraced me at the door as she left.”

In the letter, Lauer wrote that “this encounter, which she now falsely claims was an assault, was the beginning of our affair. It was the first of many sexual encounters between us over the next several months.”

According to Farrow’s book, Nevils acknowledged that she did go on to have further sexual encounters with Lauer once they returned to New York, though describes the situation differently than Lauer.

“It was completely transactional. It was not a relationship,” she told Farrow.

Nevils issued her own statement to NBC News in response to Lauer’s letter, writing that “his open letter was a case study in victim blaming.”

“I am not afraid of him now regardless of his threats, bullying, and the shaming and predatory tactics I knew he would and now has tried to use against me,” she said in the statement to NBC.

She also posted on Twitter about the support she has received since coming forward.

“I want to thank the many survivors who shared their stories with me today and offered their support. It takes courage, and I am truly grateful,” Nevils wrote.

Farrow reported that Nevils said she told “like a million people” about her encounters with Lauer after the alleged affair ended and told Vieira in fall 2017, after allegations about other famous men were made. Farrow says Vieira told Nevils to report her allegations to human resources and to bring a lawyer, which she did. Nevils went on medical leave in 2018 and was paid “seven figures” by NBC, Farrow reported.

At the time of Lauer’s firing, NBC News chairman Andrew Lack said HR had received “a detailed complaint from a colleague … about inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace by Matt Lauer.”

In that statement, Lack said the alleged sexual behavior “represented, after serious review, a clear violation of our company’s standards.”

“As a result, we’ve decided to terminate his employment. While it is the first complaint about his behavior in the over twenty years he’s been at NBC News, we were also presented with reason to believe this may not have been an isolated incident. Our highest priority is to create a workplace environment where everyone feels safe and protected, and to ensure that any actions that run counter to our core values are met with consequences,” the November 2017 statement noted.

In light of the revelations from Farrow’s book, NBC issued another statement Wednesday, as well as another memo to staff also obtained by ABC News.

“Matt Lauer’s conduct in 2014 was appalling and reprehensible – and of course we said so at the time. The first moment we learned of it was the night of November 27, 2017, and he was fired in 24 hours. Any suggestion that we knew prior to that evening or tried to cover up any aspect of Lauer’s conduct is absolutely false and offensive,” Lack wrote in the Wednesday memo.

“Today, some have questioned why we used the term ‘sexual misconduct’ to describe the reason for Lauer’s firing in the days following. We chose those words carefully to precisely mirror the public words at that time of the attorney representing our former NBC colleague,” Lack said in the memo.

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