In 2009, writer Nell Scovell was asked to appear on the NBC morning show after she penned a Vanity Fair article about alleged behind-the-scenes sexual discrimination and misconduct on the Late Show with David Letterman. Scovell, who went on to co-write Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In, further details her experience as a female writer at the late night show in her upcoming memoir, Just the Funny Parts, out March 20.
In a chapter excerpted by Vanity Fair, Scovell recalls an unpleasant interaction she allegedly had with Lauer after she turned down the network’s request for an interview.
“I finished writing my piece, ‘Letterman and Me,’ and it went live on vanityfair.com at 12 A.M. on October 27,” she writes. “The next morning, I opened my laptop. My inbox was flooded. The story had been picked up by several web sites, and requests for appearances came pouring in. I turned down the Today show, and then hours later, my phone rang. I picked up and heard a familiar voice.”
According to Scovell, Lauer was “smooth and charming” as he walked her through why she should accept his offer to tell her side of the story. Scovell says she told Lauer at the time she was hesitant to appear on TV because “people want to hear about interns in the bedroom, and I want to talk about gender in the writers’ room.”
“You’re O.K. if I don’t discuss Dave sleeping with interns?” she claims she asked him, to which he reportedly replied with a chuckle, “Hey, I couldn’t be held to that high standard.”
“Matt’s ‘joke’ made me queasy,” writes Scovell. “With apologies, I passed a second time.”
Scovell’s alleged interaction with Lauer occurred nearly a decade before the veteran anchor was terminated by NBC on Nov. 29 for alleged sexual misconduct. A source later told PEOPLE that Lauer was let go due to sexual misconduct throughout 2014 with a female staffer, including at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. (Another source with knowledge of the situation said Lauer had viewed this relationship as “consensual” and was “dumbfounded” by the accusation.)
He addressed the allegations in a statement released Nov. 30.
“There are no words to express my sorrow and regret for the pain I have caused others by words and actions,” he said. “To the people I have hurt, I am truly sorry. As I am writing this, I realize the depth of the damage and disappointment I have left behind at home and at NBC. 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. I regret that my shame is now shared by the people I cherish dearly.”
“Repairing the damage will take a lot of time and soul searching, and I’m committed to beginning that effort,” he continued. “It is now my full time job. The last two days have forced me to take a very hard look at my own troubling flaws. It’s been humbling. I am blessed to be surrounded by people I love. I thank them for their patience and grace.”