Brooke Nevils clearly described rape or sexual assault by Matt Lauer in NBC meeting, Ronan Farrow says

But Nevils, a former NBC News producer, was not ready to use the word "rape" in describing the assault at the time, according to Farrow.

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By Daniel Arkin

In a meeting with NBC officials in November 2017, former NBC News producer Brooke Nevils "unambiguously" described being raped by former "Today" host Matt Lauer without explicitly using that term, investigative journalist Ronan Farrow said in a television interview Friday.

The claim is included in "Catch and Kill," an upcoming book by Farrow that documents his reporting on movie mogul Harvey Weinstein and other prominent men who are accused of attacking and harassing women. NBC News has not seen a copy of the book, slated to be released on Tuesday.

"We're very careful about laying out exactly what happened and what she said when she" brought her complaint to NBC, Farrow told ABC News' George Stephanopoulos on Friday. "She unambiguously described a rape or sexual assault."

"Like many trauma victims, she was not ready to use those words," Farrow added, so her attorney "asked a clear series of questions that elicited answers that without a doubt said this is nonconsensual — and even stopped the proceedings to say, 'This is nonconsensual, we want to be clear.'"

Nevils has accused Lauer of raping her in a hotel room in Russia during the 2014 Sochi Olympics. She brought a formal complaint against Lauer to NBC's human resources department in November 2017.

In a memo to NBC News employees on Wednesday, NBC News Chairman Andy Lack said that "some have questioned why we used the term 'sexual misconduct' to describe the reason for Lauer's firing in the days following" his termination from the company.

"We chose those words carefully to precisely mirror the public words at that time of the attorney representing our former NBC colleague," Lack said, referring to Nevils.

In a statement after the ABC News interview aired, a representative for Nevils said: "This is a sensitive issue. The way it's been described by Ronan is accurate and the book backs it up."

Lauer's lawyer, Libby Locke, said her client "did not have a single complaint brought to his attention until Nov. 28, 2017," adding that NBC stated as much after its internal investigation.

Lauer has previously confirmed he had a sexual relationship with Nevils but claimed it was "completely consensual."

"In a new book, it is alleged that an extramarital, but consensual, sexual encounter I have previously admitted having, was in fact an assault," Lauer said in part of an open letter issued by his lawyer on Wednesday. "It is categorically false, ignores the facts, and defies common sense."

In a statement to NBC News on Wednesday night, Nevils said Lauer was trying to "bully" her with his open letter.

"There's the Matt Lauer that millions of Americans watched on TV every morning for two decades, and there is the Matt Lauer who this morning attempted to bully a former colleague into silence," Nevils said in her statement to NBC News, referring to Lauer's letter.

"His open letter was a case study in victim blaming and concluded by threatening any other woman who might dare to speak out against him," she said.

NBC News did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday morning.

Lauer was fired by NBC News on Nov. 29, 2017, following Nevils' complaint to the company. Nevils' accusation noted that the alleged behavior continued in the workplace after the 2014 Olympics.

In a statement issued Wednesday, after Variety reported the allegations against Lauer after obtaining a copy of the book, NBC News said 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."

But in his interview Friday, Farrow rebutted the company's statements, claiming that he had spoken to senior executives who had been told about earlier incidents involving Lauer.

"What we show in this book — with a paper trail, with documents — is that there were multiple secret settlements and nondisclosures being struck with women at NBC ... years before, over a period of six to seven years, a period in which NBC had previously denied any settlements," Farrow claimed.

"There were seven nondisclosure agreements, multiple ones of those were with Matt Lauer accusers. This is years before this incident with Brooke Nevils and the firing. I spoke to senior executives who were told about those earlier incidents," Farrow went on to claim, without identifying the employees in question.

In the memo to staff members, Lack reiterated the findings of the company's investigation, which found that leadership and management were not aware of Lauer's alleged conduct prior to Nevils' meeting with human resources.

"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 memo.

NBCUniversal said in May 2018 that a five-month internal investigation found no evidence that any NBC News or "Today" show leadership, human resources personnel or others in positions of authority were aware of allegations of sexual misconduct made by four women against Lauer before November 2017.

"NBCU's legal team has done an exhaustive search of available records and conducted dozens of interviews of past and present staff, and uncovered no claims or settlements relating to allegations of inappropriate conduct by Matt Lauer that pre-date his firing," an NBC News spokeswoman said earlier this week.

"Only following his termination did we reach agreements with two women who had come forward for the very first time and those women have always been free to share their stories about Lauer with anyone they choose," the spokeswoman added.