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Ex-'Today' staffer calls Matt Lauer relationship 'abuse of power'

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Ex-'Today' staffer calls Matt Lauer relationship 'abuse of power'

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A former "Today" staffer said on Monday that her brief, consensual sexual relationship with Matt Lauer was an "abuse of power" initiated by the news anchor.

"I'm coming forward to say yes, this was consensual," Addie Zinone told Megyn Kelly TODAY in her first televised interview.

But, she added: "It was an abuse of power. I want to put a face and a story to these women's accusations because I'm seeing that they're being doubted and I have to validate their claims."

Lauer, who was the anchor of "Today" for two decades, was fired by NBC News last month after a female colleague made a detailed complaint accusing him of inappropriate sexual behavior.

Zinone first detailed her relationship with Lauer to Variety.

Zinone was a 24-year-old production assistant for the morning show in June 2000 when she said Lauer, then in his 40s and married, initiated the relationship with her. She said he would send suggestive messages to her while working in the office and rebuffed her request for career advice and instead tried to seduce her.

Related: Lawyer says NBC News failing to protect privacy of Lauer accuser

She said the married anchor had consensual sexual encounters with her in both his studio dressing room, in his office and in the bathroom at the Democratic National Convention. Zinone said she kept the relationship secret and said she has felt overwhelmed, isolated and confused over the years about it.

Zinone said she shares some of the blame, but also came forward to publicly share her story after years of remaining silent and rejecting offers from tabloids to sell her story because she wanted to empower young women to speak up and continue the conversation about powerful men abusing power for sexual favors in the workplace.

"It's difficult to talk about. My family is shattered by this. They're afraid for me," Zinone, now married with two kids, said.

"There's a lot of shame attached to what I did. My goal was to try to get him to see me as a human being and so it does seem odd that I would just continually go see him, but every time it was sort of like this opportunity, 'will you see me as human being?'"

Lauer was terminated by NBC News after an NBC News employee accused the longtime anchor of inappropriate sexual misconduct. That employee's identity has not been made public.

Lauer released a statement soon after his firing, saying he was "truly sorry." He partially denied some of the allegations, but he admitted that "there is enough truth in these stories to make me feel embarrassed and ashamed."

Representatives for Lauer said they had no further comment on Zinone's account.

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