Matt Lauer’s lengthy op-ed denying the rape allegation against him is part of his “whole mission” to “clear his name,” a source close to the disgraced Today show anchor tells PEOPLE.
“In Matt’s mind, he’s focused on not being labeled a rapist,” the source says. “Matt cares so much about what people think about him — even though he might not want to admit that.”
Last fall, former NBC employee Brooke Nevils alleged in Ronan Farrow’s Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators that Lauer anally raped her in his hotel room at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. “It was non-consensual in the sense that I was too drunk to consent,” she told Farrow in Catch and Kill. “It was nonconsensual in that I said, multiple times, that I didn’t want to have anal sex.” She also said in the book that she had more sexual encounters with Lauer back in New York City, telling Farrow: “It was completely transactional. It was not a relationship.”
In a lengthy op-ed for Mediate published on Tuesday, Lauer, 62, said he was “falsely accused of rape” and slammed Farrow’s reporting in his best-selling book, claiming the Pulitzer-winning journalist did not properly fact-check certain allegations.
“He’s on a mission right now to take down Ronan,” the source continues. “He blames Ronan for getting him labeled a rapist. Matt completely believes it was a consensual affair, no different from what many powerful people do, but that he’s had to suffer the consequences like nobody else.”
The source adds of Lauer’s fall from grace: “He was making $30 million a year and was taking helicopters from Long Island into work, four days a week. Now he’s got nothing.”
In his op-ed, Lauer acknowledged “having a consensual, yet inappropriate relationship with a fellow employee in the workplace.”
“I say these words with sincerity and humility,” he wrote. “I am sorry for the way I conducted myself. I made some terrible decisions, and I betrayed the trust of many people.”
But he denied Nevils’ allegation of rape.
“This accusation was one of the worst and most consequential things to ever happen in my life, it was devastating for my family, and outrageously it was used to sell books,” he said.[primary_media_image primary_image=”12174767″ orientation=”default” autocrop=”true” /]
In November 2017, Lauer was fired from NBC due to a complaint of “inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace.” At the time, Nevils’ identity was kept anonymous at her request. Farrow’s book, released on Oct. 15, 2019, was the first time the full details of her allegations were made public.
“At no time did Brooke Nevils ever use the words ‘assault’ or ‘rape’ in regards to any accusation against me while filing her complaint with NBC in November of 2017. That has been confirmed publicly. NBC never suggested I was being accused of such an offense when I met with their attorney on Nov. 28 of that same year. They have also confirmed that publicly,” Lauer wrote in his op-ed.
“I was shaken, but not surprised, that few in the media were willing to thoroughly challenge the accusations against me, or the person making them. The rush to judgement was swift. In fact, on the morning I was falsely accused of rape, and before I could even issue a statement, some journalist were already calling my accuser ‘brave’ and courageous.’ While the presumption of innocence is only guaranteed in a court of law, I felt journalists should have, at the very least, recognized and considered it,” Lauer continued.
“I was also disappointed, but not surprised, that Ronan Farrow’s overall reporting faced so little scrutiny. Until this week’s critical reporting by The New York Times, many in the media perceived his work as inherently beyond basic questioning,” said Lauer, referencing a May 17 article in the newspaper questioning some of Farrow’s methods.
Representatives for NBC, Farrow, Nevils and the publisher of Catch and Kill did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.
In response to Lauer’s op-ed, Farrow tweeted: “All I’ll say on this is that Matt Lauer is just wrong. Catch and Kill was thoroughly reported and fact-checked, including with Matt Lauer himself.”
Nevils also spoke out on Twitter, writing, “DARVO: Deny, Attack, Reverse Victim and Offender.”