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Matt Lauer accuser's lawyer: 'My client is terrified' she'll be identified

Ari Wilkenfeld's client, whose charges led to the TODAY anchor's ouster, says NBC executives haven't done enough to protect the woman's identity.
by Stephanie Gosk and Eun Kyung Kim / / Source: TODAY

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The attorney of the woman whose sexual misconduct allegations against Matt Lauer led to his dismissal from the TODAY anchor chair said his client is "terrified" her identity will come out, and NBC isn't doing enough to maintain her anonymity.

“My client is terrified and she does live in constant fear that people are going to track her down and figure out who she is,” attorney Ari Wilkenfeld told NBC News in an exclusive interview.

“She doesn't want to be known. She feels terrified for herself, and she feels badly for the many other women who are suspected of being her, who are also being hounded and harassed by people who are just trying to get the details of who the woman is.”

Lauer was fired by NBC executives on Nov. 28 following allegations raised by Wilkenfeld's client.

On Thursday, another woman came forward to tell her story about an alleged sexual relationship with Lauer, the first person to do so publicly. Addie Zinone, a former TODAY production assistant, wrote about her experience in an essay published by Variety.

Little has been made public about the details from the original accusation that led to Lauer's firing. But NBC executives said the sexual misconduct began during the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

Wilkenfeld says the network hasn’t done enough to protect his client’s identity.

“NBC has a duty to maintain confidentially. That means to maintain secrecy over her name and to hold to themselves the details of her story. And they have not done a good job of doing that,” he said. “They know exactly what they've done, and they need to stop.”

“There's a hunt underway to figure out who she is,” he added. “And I think that's going to have a chilling effect on other women who might want to come forward and tell their stories.”

An NBC News spokesperson said "the network has protected the employee's anonymity all along and will continue to do so."

Wilkenfeld’s client met with NBC executives on Monday, Nov. 27. The meeting started at 6 p.m. and went on for three hours.

"She showed her face, she gave her name, she told her story. And at the conclusion of the interview she was asked, 'What do you want?'" Wilkenfeld said. "And she said, 'I want you guys to do the right thing. And also I'd like you to maintain my confidentiality.'"

Lauer was terminated that Tuesday evening, and his firing was announced just before the show went on the air Wednesday morning.

Wilkenfeld called his client “incredibly brave,” saying her actions have helped protect other women who work at NBC.

“In doing so in the way that she has, she's also shined a light on the different ways women can come forward to talk about sexual harassment to their employers,” he said.

Lauer apologized in a statement he released following his termination.

“There are no words to express my sorrow and regret for the pain I have caused others by words and actions. To the people I have hurt, I am truly sorry," he said in the statement that also addressed the allegations made against him.

"Some of what is being said about me is untrue or mischaracterized, but there is enough truth in these stories to make me feel embarrassed and ashamed."

On Thursday, another woman came forward with a story about a sexual relationship she said she had with Lauer more than a decade ago.

Addie Zinone, a former TODAY production assistant, said she had a month-long sexual relationship with the anchor in 2000, right before she left the company for another job.

She said it started when Lauer sent her flattering messages, which she printed out. He then invited her to his dressing room.

Zinone told Variety the encounter in Lauer’s dressing roomwas consensual but noted she was 24 at the time – and he was one of the most powerful figures at NBC.

"Even though my situation with Matt was consensual, I ultimately felt like a victim because of the power dynamic,” she said.

NBC News declined to comment on Zinone’s accusations and a representative for Lauer said he had no further comment right now.

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