By JOHN DAHLIA
BRIDGEPORT, W.Va. — Barrackville native and former WDTV morning news anchor Addie Collins is at the center of a media and social firestorm after she revealed in an explosive national magazine article the details of a “secret” relationship she had with former “Today” show anchor Matt Lauer.
The article, published Thursday in Variety magazine, details the period of time when Collins, who now goes by her married name, Zinone, worked as an intern at “Today” in 1999.
Zinone gives explicit details about what Variety reports was a “consensual encounter” that she acknowledges “changed her life.”
Zinone gives Variety an account of a workplace affair involving Lauer, then 41 and recently married.
She describes how, while working as a production assistant on “Today,” she was able to build friendships with the on-air talent, who at the time were Katie Couric, Al Roker, Ann Curry and Lauer.
Zinone says her position with NBC News was a “dream come true” that led her to move from behind the camera to the anchor desk when she accepted the morning anchor position at CBS affiliate WDTV-TV in Bridgeport.
At the end of her time at “Today,” Zinone says, Lauer reached out through an internal, workplace instant messaging system. Zinone details conversations Lauer initiated with her. At first, she says, Lauer complimented how “fantastic” she looked, asking her “not to drag me to personnel” over the comment.
Zinone, who was 24 at the time, says she “thanked him” and proceeded to ask Lauer for advice about the new on-air job she was getting ready to start in West Virginia.
Zinone says that a month later, Lauer sent her another message: “OK…NOW YOU’RE KILLING ME…YOU LOOK GREAT TODAY! A BIT TOUGH TO CONCENTRATE.”
At that point, she again asked Lauer for advice, and he arranged for the two to meet for lunch, Zinone says.
“I didn’t know what to do,” Zinone says. “He was obviously flirting. But I’d never seen anything like that from Matt before.”
Zinone describes how the lunch meeting, which she initially thought would be focused on work, quickly evolved into what she says was Lauer’s attempt to “hit on me and manipulate the situation.”
After the lunch, she sent Lauer a message, and he, in turn, asked for her to meet him in his dressing room, Zinone says. Once she arrived, the situation “crossed the line” and was a “consensual encounter,” Zinone says.
Zinone acknowledges that over the weeks that followed, she and Lauer met on occasion.
Despite the consensual affair with Lauer, Zinone says what happened affected her both physically and mentally. However, she was still determined to get the advice she wanted before beginning her new career in broadcast journalism back home, so she went to see Lauer one more time, Zinone says.
“I sat across from him, and he pushes a button from his desk and the door shuts,” she tells Variety. “It was embarrassing because his secretary was sitting outside. He wanted to do stuff. I was like, ‘No. I’m so in over my head. I’m not a performance artist.’”
Zinone acknowledges she had one more encounter with Lauer, which took place at the 2000 Democratic National Convention in California, where “Today” was on location. She says Lauer asked her to meet him near a public bathroom. She went to meet with him and they “had an encounter,” Zinone tells Variety.
Despite leaving “Today” and beginning her new career as WDTV’s “Daybreak” and “Midday” anchor and producer, Zinone says the sordid past followed her to West Virginia.
According to Zinone, after anchoring the noon “Midday” broadcast, a reporter from the National Enquirer tracked her down to her home, looking for a story about the recent affair. Zinone says she told the reporter that she and Lauer were “just friends.”
The relationship with Lauer affected her so deeply that she decided to quit the broadcast journalism job in her home state, Zinone says.
“I was in a depression. This man who I’d held on a pedestal had made me feel like my looks and my body were my true assets. He made it clear that he wasn’t interested in my skills or my talent,” Zinone tells Variety.
Her explosive account has so far been reported on numerous broadcast, print and digital media outlets around the nation.
Zinone, 41, graduated from North Marion High School in 1994 and received a gymnastics scholarship to Temple University, from which she later graduated.
After working at WDTV, Zinone enlisted in the Army Reserves as a military journalist, serving multiple tours in Iraq, as well as working for the entertainment news program “Access Hollywood” in California.
In 2009, Zinone was inducted into the Temple University School of Communications and Theater Hall of Fame.
She lives with her husband of 10 years and two children in Southern California.