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theodore M I R A L D I mpa ... editor, publisher, writer
Sunday, December 17, 2017
An ADULTEROUS Affair with a Boss is NOT Sexual Harassment
People pass by the set of Today Show during the broadcast Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2017 Cheryl K. Chumley ANALYSIS/OPINION:
Addie Zinone, a former production assistant for the “Today Show,” has come forward to say she and Matt Lauerengaged in a consensual sexual encounter in the 2000 time frame — but that she was a victim of his sexually harassing nature just the same.
Maybe. But let’s be clear. Adultery is not the same as sexual harassment.
A mentally competent and grown woman, as Zinone was at the time — 24 years old, in fact — cannot rationally engage in a sexual affair with a married man and then backtrack and cry victim.
It’s just not truthful.
But it is damaging to the girls and women of the world out there who have truly been sexually harassed, or who are currently fighting off sexual harassers and who have to, first and foremost — before filing any claims, before making their cases known, before attempting to fight for personal justice — overcome the perception of the very many who simply say they’re lying.
Zinone’s assertions of victimhood only fuel the disgust and doubt thrown true victims’ way.
Here’s Zinone’s story, in brief, from Variety: She first came to NBC’s “Today” as an intern in 1999, under the unmarried name of Addie Collins. In July 2000, as Zinone was preparing to leave the show, Lauer reportedly invited her to lunch. Zinone said she went because she wanted his career advice.
“Instead, Lauer, who was in his 40s and newly married, started to aggressively hit on the 24-year-old employee,” Variety wrote. “Zinone felt dumbstruck and numb. Intimidated by his stature, she gave in to his flattery and she entered into a month-long relationship with Lauer, who would arrange to secretly meet her in his dressing room.”
Why give in to the flattery, though? Seems a red flag, right there. More red flags? The subsequent meet-ups in private.
Anyhow, Lauer, as we all know, has recently been fired for inappropriate sexual conduct with NBC staffers and underlings, beginning in 2014 at the Sochi Olympics. And now that Lauer’s been outed as somewhat of a serial workplace sexual predator, Zinone has come clean with her story, strangely making the case that she sees parallels between her experience with Lauer and the women who’ve come forward to accuse Lauer of unwanted sexual attention, harassment and misconduct.
It hardly seems apples-to-apples.
Look at what she tells Variety: “The last time I saw [Lauer] that summer was at the 2000 Democratic National Convention in California. The ‘Today Show’ was live from the Staples Center floor. He was looking at a script and he leaned over and said to me, ‘Do you see that bathroom over there? Meet me there in five minutes.’ I was leaving and I had no other chance to talk to him. So I went — and we had an encounter.”
Yes — a consensual sexual encounter.
An encounter that, in her own words, gave plenty of opportunity for avoidance, plenty of chance to exit, stage-right — and yet an encounter that went forward just the same.
This isn’t an unwanted “encounter.” This is an adulterous affair.
That’s not to say Zinone wasn’t bowled over by Lauer’s stature and power. And that’s not to say Lauer didn’t sexually pursue her in a manner that could easily be labeled sexual harassment. Variety, for instance, published the messages Lauer allegedly sent Zinone — and let’s just say they were pretty blunt.
“OK,” he wrote to Zinone in one, Variety reported, “NOW YOU”RE KILLING ME. … YOU LOOK GREAT TODAY! A BIT TOUGH TO CONCENTRATE.”
There were more, of similar tone and titillating content.
But throughout Zinone’s story, one fact emerges as clear: She simply had an affair.
She was an adulteress.
And no matter what mental state she may have been in while working at NBC — no matter what type of baggage she carried from her youth that might have made her yearn for the attentions of Lauer, even while despising them — fact is: Consensual ain’t victimhood.
“Even looking back now, at 41, I can’t envision a scenario … where I could not have succumbed to his advances,” she told Variety. “I know that sounds naive. I realize it may even sound dramatic. But that’s the truth. … Even though my situation with Matt was consensual, I ultimately felt like a victim because of the power dynamic.”
Truth is, anyone reading her story could see all kinds of scenarios where she could have avoided Lauer’s advances. But she didn’t.
Lauer’s predatory and harassing qualities don’t negate the fact that Zinone entered into a consensual affair — a consensual adulterous affair. And in these tumultuous times, where a new harasser is being fingered every day in the news, when new victims, both anonymous and named, are coming forward with more accusations against sad-sack male employers who abuse their workplace positions of power, let’s not conflate the definition of adultery with sexual harassment. The two may indeed be found together, but the one is not the same as the other.