By Nick Romano
October 09, 2019 at 11:24 AM EDT
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On Wednesday morning, Today show hosts Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb paused the program to address the new report of a sexual assault allegation against their former NBC anchor Matt Lauer, as detailed in a passage from Ronan Farrow‘s new book, Catch and Kill.

“We are disturbed to our core,” Guthrie said.

Variety was the first to report on the passage from the book and states Brooke Nevils, a former NBC News employee, alleges Lauer anally raped her in a hotel room at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. Nevils’ complaint to NBC at the time led to Lauer’s firing from Today in 2017, but her identity and the details of her complaint remained confidential until now.

Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images

A rep for Lauer could not immediately be reached for comment. Though, he submitted a letter through his lawyer that was published by Variety on Wednesday. In it, he claims he and Nevils had a “consensual” sexual encounter and says her claims are “categorically false, ignores the facts, and defies common sense.”

“I feel like we owe it to our viewers to pause for a moment,” Guthrie said on Today Wednesday morning. “This is shocking and appalling, and I honestly don’t even know what to say about it. I want to say, I know it wasn’t easy for our colleague Brooke to come forward then, it’s not easy now, and we support her and any women who have come forward with claims. And it’s just very painful for all of us at NBC who are at the Today show. It is very, very, very difficult.”

Kotb added, “You feel like you’ve known someone for 12 years… You feel like you know them inside and out, and then all of the sudden a door opens up and it’s a part of them you didn’t know. We don’t know the facts in all of this, but they’re not allegations of an affair. They’re allegations of a crime, and I think that is shocking to all of us here who have sat with Matt for many, many years.”

“I think we are just going to continue to process this part of this horrific story,” she continued. “As you said, our thoughts are with Brooke. It’s not easy to come forward. It’s not easy at all.”

According to Variety, Catch and Kill details how Nevils recalls drinking at a hotel bar with Today co-anchor Meredith Vieira when Lauer joined them. After six shots of vodka, Nevils says she went to Lauer’s hotel room twice, once to retrieve her press pass that Lauer apparently took as a joke and a second time on Lauer’s invitation.

Upon entering, Nevils claims Lauer pushed her against the door and kissed her before throwing her on the bed. Variety quotes Farrow as writing how Lauer was “flipping her over, asking if she liked anal sex. She said that she declined several times.”

In another quoted passage, Farrow details how Nevils says she “was in the midst of telling him she wasn’t interested again when he ‘just did it.’ Lauer, she said, didn’t use lubricant. The encounter was excruciatingly painful. ‘It hurt so bad. I remember thinking, Is this normal?’ She told me she stopped saying no, but wept silently into a pillow.”

As Lauer tells it in his letter, “I had an extramarital affair with Brooke Nevils in 2014. It began when she came to my hotel room very late one night in Sochi, Russia. We engaged in a variety of sexual acts. We performed oral sex on each other, we had vaginal sex, and we had anal sex. Each act was mutual and completely consensual.”

“The story Brooke tells is filled with false details intended only to create the impression this was an abusive encounter. Nothing could be further from the truth,” he continues. “There was absolutely nothing aggressive about that encounter. Brooke did not do or say anything to object. She certainly did not cry. She was a fully enthusiastic and willing partner. At no time did she behave in a way that made it appear she was incapable of consent. She seemed to know exactly what she wanted to do. The only concern she expressed was that someone might see her leaving my room. She embraced me at the door as she left.”

His full letter can be read on Variety.

NBC also released a statement following the allegation that read, “Matt Lauer’s conduct was appalling, horrific, and reprehensible, as we said at the time. That’s why he was fired within 24 hours of us first learning of the complaint. Our hearts break again for our colleague.”

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