Matt Lauer addressed the "difficult times" he's been through in his first interview since he was fired from the Today show last November due to alleged sexual misconduct.
The 60-year-old journalist spoke with Radio New Zealand's Checkpoint With John Campbell about a property issue concerning his ranch in New Zealand. Lauer bought a $13 million lease to the Hunter Valley Station Ranch before his sexual harassment scandal erupted, and is now fighting with government groups who want Lauer to grant more access to hikers and hunters in order for them to get to Hawea Conservation Park. Hunter Valley Station is the only thoroughfare to Hawea Conservation Park.
Lauer is against the easement, and says that the groups are "taking advantage" of the fallout of his highly publicized sexual misconduct scandal.
"I believe the groups that are behind this are in some ways unfortunately taking advantage of some difficult times I've been through over the past six months and I think they see me as an easy mark," Lauer says. "And what they're going to try to do is put this through, which would set a precedent because this has not been done ever before with a pastoral lease holder or property owner without that person's consent."
"In the year and a half or year plus that I've owned it, I've invested hundreds of thousands of dollars to improve the property and now a year later they come and say, 'Oh wait a minute, we granted you this lease under this set of rules. We'd like to change the rules,'" Lauer adds. "I don't think that's fair."
Lauer did say that he was open to "explore" compensation if an easement is granted. Meanwhile, the Walking Access Commission and Department of Conservation, which is seeking the easement, is arguing that since the land is technically owned by the government, the public should have greater access.
A source close to Lauer tells ET that he is planning to spend more time in New Zealand, and may not ever want to make a career comeback in the United States.
"[His] friends don't see Matt returning to the spotlight anytime soon," he source says. "They're not sure he'll ever want to make a big career comeback."
"It's a priority for him to get to New Zealand and spend some time away from the States," the source continues. "He's still leaning on longtime friends for support; people who have stood by his side and know him as a person."
"I have made no public comments on the many false stories from anonymous or biased sources that have been reported about me over these past several months," Lauer stated. "I remained silent in an attempt to protect my family from further embarrassment and to restore a small degree of the privacy they have lost. But defending my family now requires me to speak up."
"I fully acknowledge that I acted inappropriately as a husband, father and principal at NBC," the statement continued. "However I want to make it perfectly clear that any allegations or reports of coercive, aggressive or abusive actions on my part, at any time, are absolutely false."