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New Book on Matt Lauer Accusations; Democrats Debate in Ohio. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired October 15, 2019 - 08:30   ET




ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: When NBC news fired Matt Lauer two years ago, the network said an employee accused him of, quote, inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace. Well, in Ronan Farrow's new book, "Catch and Kill," Brooke Nevils, that employee, speaks out for the first time and spells out what she says happened the night that Lauer allegedly raped her in his hotel room at the 2014 Sochi Olympics in Russia.

Let's bring back now Ronan Farrow. His new book again is "Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies and a Conspiracies to Protect Predators" is out now.

Ronan, one of the fascinating things about your book is that you got Brooke Nevils to talk. So we had just heard about this woman. She hadn't been named. And in here she shares with you such personal, graphic details about what she says happened with Matt Lauer. She also explains to you the aftermath, the huge toll that this took on her in terms of PTSD, a suicide attempt that I'd had never heard about.

Why did she want to open up to you? I mean other than your wonderful reporting skills, why did she want to share her story like this?

RONAN FARROW, AUTHOR, "CATCH AND KILL": Well, you frame it in the right way. I mean when you say "got her to talk," you know from your own excellent reporting on this, you don't really get someone to talk. Someone is brave enough to talk and decides to and it's a wrenching, personal decision.

Brooke Nevils, like every survivor of alleged sexual violence that I have worked with as a source, took a long time to come to this decision, complicated by the fact that she was, over the course of 2018, in a harrowing negotiation process with a network that wanted her signed to an ironclad NDA, that multiple sources around those negotiations said involved initially trying to commit her to never talking to any other Lauer accusers, never talking about anything. The final agreement does permit her to talk about Lauer, but part of what is so difficult and so brave about her coming forward is she is still barred from talking about the network or executives there or what they knew and how they handled this.

CAMEROTA: So for people -- they can read all of the details in your book, obviously, but the gist of it is that there was a night when she was working for more Meredith Vieira at the Sochi Olympics in 2014. They were -- she and Meredith Vieira were at the bar. She says they had six shots of vodka. Matt Lauer joined them before the shots of vodka. And then they sort of played a prank on each other and exchanged pass cards and she then had to go up to his room to retrieve and get the right pass card. What she says happened -- happened next, she says was nonconsensual. And what she describes was what we would call a rape.

Matt Lauer has a very different take on it. And he put out this open letter that got so much attention, I believe it was last week, because of the details he spelled out. He spelled out sex acts. He spelled out all sorts of graphic things. So I'll just read a part that's appropriate for morning TV.

Here's from Matt Lauer. There was absolutely nothing aggressive about that encounter. Brooke did not do or say anything to object. She certainly did not cry. 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 seemed to know exactly what she wanted to do.

Do you know why Matt Lauer took this tact? Why he decided to speak out in such a personal and graphic way?

FARROW: So it's worth noting that for anyone about whom a major allegation is described in this book, there was an elaborate and intensive fact-checking and comment process. Matt Lauer's thinking is very fully represented in the book and one of the material responses that he has laid out in this letter is, there was subsequent contact.

And it's important to note that in a lot of the cases described in this book and described in general by survivors of sexual violence, that is a facet of it.

CAMEROTA: Why is that? Why did she have contact with him again?

FARROW: Well, this is something you'd be familiar with, but it's worth laying out for the public. Very often, in cases of trauma like this, perpetrated by a boss, a pastor, a parent, someone in a position of power, someone in a position of proximity, it's not like you can just cut contact entirely. And he and some pretty powerful corporate interests attempted to describe this as an affair in the aftermath. This is something she was anguished by when she learned NBC executives were describing it in this way both within the building and outside.


She describes throwing up she told friends, you know, and she said, I was raped and NBC lied about it. These are things that are locked up in her nondisclosure agreement and are hard for her to talk about directly. But this is what she told people at the time.

Now, she did not describe an affair. Even in terms of this contact afterwards. She described a junior employee being asked to have professional contact with a very senior person at this company and at times then submitting to requests for sex acts in his office and other places.

Now, there are moments where he says, come to my apartment, have a drink and she readily admits she responded in a way that was an attempt to be friendly, to make him seem at ease, to convey that she was at ease, but that is often the nature of, when you have a power imbalance like this, even if you have alleged that someone has attacked you, what happens in the aftermath.

And this is important. She lays out very clearly that regardless of how he interpreted what came before and what came after, that night, she said no to a physical act and was too drunk to consent, but still said no repeatedly. And this is her account. We include rebuttals from Matt Lauer's thinking. But he proceeded with that, according to her, and he doesn't dispute that the act happened.

CAMEROTA: Did you talk to Matt Lauer for the book?

FARROW: You know, very often in our professor we are bound by ground rules to not talk about the specifics of who we spoke to, but all I can say is the standard of reaching out for comment in this book was exacting. And we would not have run an allegation like this without it being very carefully nuanced to reflect the thinking of all involved.

CAMEROTA: Here's why I ask. Were you able to determine why Matt Lauer continually exercised such shockingly bad judgment in terms of having repeated sexual encounters with young junior women that he doesn't deny. Extra marital affairs, as he calls them. Why he had such bad judgement? And did you come to the conclusion that he was a predator?

FARROW: So, here's the thing. Even within the context of this story, this is bigger than one allegation. You know, I talk about seven allegations of misconduct against Matt Lauer. Several of them are laid out in detail in this book. And yet again, it's bigger than Matt Lauer. It's bigger than one network.

I think it's important to note the reason that we're having an important conversation about this is not just the seriousness of any one story, it's about the patterns that prevent brave people who want to come forward from doing so. It is about companies, including NBC, but it's not just an NBC problem. I reported on similar situations at CBS that used payouts to sweep problems under the rug.

The women who told their stories about Matt Lauer and others at this company are still terrified to speak because they are locked up in these contracts.

CAMEROTA: Let's talk about that because one of the revelations in the book that you've just talked about this week is also that there were settlements that certainly the public didn't know about. Were there seven other settlements that -- as -- according to your reporting, that NBC paid out because of Matt Lauer?

FARROW: So I want to get the numbers precise.

CAMEROTA: Yes. FARROW: In a period of time in which NBC told its own journalists we have no settlements or NDAs with women with harassment or discrimination complaints, we do document a paper trail showing seven. Some of those are Matt Lauer related. Some not. The Lauer ones did indeed happen years before his firing. And I spoke to executives who knew about complaints about Matt Lauer years before.

CAMEROTA: Here is what NBC News President Noah Oppenheim said to his staff, put out in a statement yesterday. As a result of your book, he put out this staff wide memo. It reads in part, Farrow's effort to defame NBC News is clearly motivated not by a pursuit of truth but an axe to grind. It is built on a series of distortions, confused timelines and outright inaccuracies.

FARROW: The reporting in the book speaks for itself. It is meticulously fact checked, including with NBC executives. Their responses are in the book. It's very fair that they had an opportunity to respond.

But what the book lays out in an undisputable way, and we're very confident in this reporting, and it has held up to scrutiny by multiple outlets now, is that there was, indeed, a paper trail of settlements at this company. They say it's coincidental that they continued to pay out women large sums.

CAMEROTA: I don't even know what that means, coincidental that you pay women large sums?

FARROW: Well, they say that they use euphemisms. They say these were, you know, enhanced severance packages. They have ways of hiding this.

And you know from reporting on these issues, that is how these look in a corporate concept -- context. They are concealed. But executives involved in brokering those settlements, and the women involved, all were under the impression that this was to shut them up about complaints of misconduct within this company.

CAMEROTA: Here's what Andy Lack, who's the chairman of NBC News, said in a companywide letter on October 9th. 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 27th, 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.

So how do you square that?

FARROW: So, obviously, this book documents very clearly that people at a very high level in this company knew. There's been a lot of effort to spin the press and to convey, you know, well, maybe previous leadership knew and to dispute how much each individual person knew.


That's not the point here. The point here, Alisyn, is that we are correctly asking tough questions. And the tough journalists at NBC and other places that have been exposed for this kind of pattern of corporate misconduct are asking tough questions about the use of these agreements and the culture of silence. That is bigger than any one network. It is a cultural problem in corporate America.

CAMEROTA: And you get to all of that in the new book out today, "Catch and Kill."

Ronan Farrow, thank you so much for sharing all these revelations with us on NEW DAY.

FARROW: Thank you, Alisyn, for your own reporting.

CAMEROTA: Thank you. Great to talk to you.

NEW DAY will be right back.



CAMEROTA: Time now for "Five Things to Know for Your New Day."

President Trump's former Russia adviser, Fiona Hill, tells Congress she witnessed wrongdoing involving the president's Ukraine policy. She also testified that former National Security Adviser John Bolton called Rudy Giuliani, quote, a hand grenade that's going to blow everybody up.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hunter Biden speaking just moments ago telling ABC News that he used, quote, poor judgment in serving on the board of a Ukrainian gas company, but he says he did nothing wrong.

CAMEROTA: Hunter Biden's comments come as his father prepares to take the stage in Ohio for tonight's critical CNN/"New York Times" debate. Twelve Democrats will be on the stage, the most in U.S. history.

BERMAN: President Trump says he will dispatch Vice President Mike Pence to Turkey to negotiate a cease-fire in northern Syria. This comes as the president has imposed new sanctions on Turkey over its military offensive in Syria, an offensive that began only after the president made the decision to pull U.S. troops from the northern border.

CAMEROTA: NBA superstar LeBron James now clarifying his stance on the league's clash with China. James told reporters that Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey was, quote, misinformed when he tweeted support for the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong. James now says Morey did not consider the consequences of his tweet.

For more on the "Five Things to Know," go to for the latest.

BERMAN: All right, now it's here what -- here is what else is watch today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ON SCREEN TEXT: 11:00 a.m. ET, Fort Worth police speak about shooting.

3:10 p.m. ET, Trump speaks at Rose Garden ceremony.

8:00 p.m. ET, Democratic presidential debate on CNN.


CAMEROTA: That does look good.

OK. Maybe I'm not supposed to editorialize.

But, meanwhile, we are just hours away. I mean many hours, but we are hours away, John, OK, from tonight's Democratic debate in Ohio. Will one candidate break away from the pack right there in that very hall that you're looking at right there? And there's the aerial shot.

BERMAN: And there's where they can run after they break out of the pack, on that track.

CAMEROTA: Or beforehand. Right. That's where they will be running.

We get "The Bottom Line" on all of this, next.

BERMAN: Metaphor alert, the candidates running.



BERMAN: Let's take a live look at where the magic will happen in just hours. And it is, in fact, just hours from now. The debate hall in Westerville, Ohio. Twelve Democratic candidates will take that stage in the CNN/"New York Times" debate.

Want to get "The Bottom Line" with former mayor of New Orleans, Mitch Landrieu, now a CNN political commentator.

Mr. Mayor, thank you for being with us.

What's going to happen? And I ask that --


BERMAN: I ask that because, look, we've had so much --

LANDRIEU: What's going to happen?


BERMAN: What's going to happen?

CAMEROTA: Tell us everything.

BERMAN: Since the last Democratic debate, they've launched an impeachment inquiry of President Trump, which is sort of, to an extent, overshadowed so much else that's gone on. We've had Hunter Biden who just did an interview this morning. You've got testimony day after day.

So how does that all factor into what we'll see on this stage tonight?

LANDRIEU: It is really just crazy. I mean so much has changed since the last debate. Of course, now you have 12 people on the stage. This is the largest presidential debate in the history of the country. They only have three hours. They're going to be jumping all over each other trying to distinguish themselves from each other, while at the same time trying to stay focused on the very simple principle that the president of the United States has abused his power, torn this country apart and made us weaker. And they're going to try to make both of the cases for themselves and against him at the same time.

CAMEROTA: Is it political strategy 101 that all candidates know that to distinguish yourself you have to go after the frontrunner?

LANDRIEU: Well, that was politics 101 until they tried it a couple of times and then it backfired. So I think everybody's in unchartered territory. Not only as a matter of process, but as a matter of subject. The news changes by the hour. The news coming off of Capitol Hill changes. It may change today that might affected the debate tonight. How the candidates go against each other could affect the change. Some lesser known candidates who feel like they're running out of time could be very aggressive tonight. It's going to be very interesting and it ought to be very exciting.

BERMAN: So two other things have changed besides the impeachment inquiry since the last debate. Number one, Bernie Sanders had a heart attack and he is coming back out. He's been up in Burlington, Vermont, but he'll be on that stage tonight. We will see him.

And also Elizabeth Warren is now very much the co-frontrunner with Joe Biden. That has changed over the last month as she has risen in the polls.

How will those two dynamics factor in tonight?

LANDRIEU: Well, a couple of -- a couple of other things have changed as well. A couple of other candidates did pretty well in fundraising. And it is true that since the last debate, Senator Warren has now consistently began to rise, not only in fundraising, but in polling numbers as well. And, of course, that levels the playing field a little bit.

Everybody wishes Bernie Sanders really, really well, but I think that's going to have somewhat of a negative draw on him and some of the questions, I think, will be surrounding what that looks like. I think most people assume that if Senator Sanders falls a little bit, most of his votes will go to Elizabeth Warren, which will keep, you know, pushing her in an upward trajectory while the vice president continues to suffer some pretty serious incoming fire.

But, having said that, Senator Warren's never been on the stage where she's been the focus of a lot of folks' attention. And so people are going to be interested to see how she reacts to that as well.

CAMEROTA: So, mayor, are you a fan of them talking impeachment or talking kitchen table issues?


LANDRIEU: Well, I'll tell you, I was hard core, don't talk about impeachment, until the Ukraine matter arose. And I don't think that it's possible for the country to look away from that. Essentially, though, Congress has to do their duty and allow the politics to fall where they may. And then these candidates have to focus on what the American people want them to focus on, which is kitchen table issues. You have to be able to do both at once because they're both compelling issues for the future of our country.

BERMAN: All right, Mitch Landrieu, former mayor of New Orleans, we'll let you finish putting the chairs up. I see -- I think that's one of your jobs this morning, setting up the debate hall.

CAMEROTA: You're busy.

LANDRIEU: You got it. I'm working on it hard.

BERMAN: It looks beautiful. And it really will be interesting because just think about how much has changed from one month ago. Really. The impeachment inquiry didn't exist a month ago.

CAMEROTA: Absolutely. And, you know, I know that this is a long campaign. People are engaged. As we see from the viewers who watch these debates, and "The New York Times" sees from their headlines, it -- people are the most engaged they have been in a long time.

BERMAN: CNN and "The New York Times" Democratic presidential debate live at 8:00 p.m. Eastern only on CNN.

CAMEROTA: OK, Rudy Giuliani is a hand grenade that will blow everything up. Don't take it from me. In fact, those aren't my words. Those are the new allegations from the testimony on the impeachment investigation. We'll talk about that and the big debate, of course, next.