At Elle‘s Women in Hollywood Celebration in Los Angeles Monday, Kaling, 43, applauded 39-year-old Hathaway for her composure during a 2012 interview with then-Today show host Matt Lauer. At the time, Lauer, now 64, questioned the Les Miserables actress about an invasive paparazzi photo that made the rounds prior to the press appearance. He called it a “wardrobe malfunction.”
“From the age of 18 years old [Hathaway] has been objectified regularly, and despite loving her as a performer I’ll tell you when I fell in love with her,” Kaling told the audience of Hathaway during her speech at the event.
Kaling, who costarred with Hathaway in 2018’s Ocean’s 8, referenced the 2012 world premiere of Les Miserables, where a photographer “positioned his camera low so he could take a photo up her skirt.”
“On the Today show the next morning, Matt Lauer said to her in this chastising, someone-has-been-naughty way, ‘Anne Hathaway I’ve seen a lot of you lately,’ ” Kaling said. “First of all, gross. Are you like a lame uncle at Thanksgiving?”
“And then he asked her what’s the lesson learned from something like that, referring to paparazzi ambushing her — as if she was the one who had done something wrong,” she continued.
“Annie simply responded, ‘It kind of made me sad on two accounts,’ ” Kaling added. “‘One that we live in an age when someone takes a picture of someone in a vulnerable moment and rather than delete it and do the decent thing, sells it. And I’m sorry that we live in a culture that commodifies sexuality of unwilling participants.’ ” (Hathaway then pivoted back to discussing the movie she was promoting during the live interview.)
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The interview took place over four years before Lauer was ousted from the Today show in November 2017, when NBC revealed that the former anchor was fired due to a complaint of “inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace.”
At the time of his firing, a source told PEOPLE that Lauer was let go due to sexual misconduct throughout 2014, including at the Winter Olympics in Sochi that year. Another source at the time said Lauer had viewed his relationship with the woman who made the complaint as “consensual” and was “dumbfounded” by the accusation.
Details of the complaint were not made public until Oct. 8, 2019, when Variety published an excerpt from Ronan Farrow‘s book, Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators, in which former NBC News employee Brooke Nevils alleged that Lauer raped her in his hotel room at the Sochi Olympics. Nevils told Farrow that she was “too drunk to consent” and also stated multiple times that she did not want to have anal intercourse.
In the book, Nevils also said she had more sexual encounters with Lauer in New York City, telling Farrow: “It was completely transactional. It was not a relationship.”
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, please contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) or go to rainn.org.