Tom Brokaw calls harassment accusations 'a drive-by shooting'
Tom Brokaw is responding to harassment allegations by a former NBC News reporter, calling his accuser a woman with a grudge against the network with no “distinctive credentials or issue passions.”
In a letter to NBC News staff that was first obtained by The Hollywood Reporter and confirmed by the Associated Press, Brokaw, 78, wrote how he was “angry, hurt and unmoored” by former war correspondent Linda Vester’s claims that he made unwanted advances toward her more than 20 years ago. Vester’s allegations were chronicled this week in the Washington Post and she also taped a video for Variety.
“I felt powerless to say no,” she told Variety about a particular encounter in her hotel room. “He could ruin my career. I don’t recall saying, “Ok.” I just remember being frozen. I went cold inside and started shaking. And I felt trapped because he was undeterred by anything I had said before … Even though I know I was not in any way at fault in what happened to me with Brokaw, I still suffered years of humiliation and isolation. I really do hope that by me telling my story and by shining this light, [NBC parent] Comcast will understand why it’s so essential to hire outside counsel to investigate this deeply rooted problem.”
Brokaw denied to WaPo the allegations in its Thursday article, saying, “Despite Linda’s allegations, I made no romantic overtures towards her, at that time or any other.”
On Friday, Brokaw wrote to former colleagues about how he helped Vester obtain a job at Fox News — where she was an anchor through 2006 — when the opportunities became limited at NBC. She went on to work there in 1999 while Brokaw “never heard from her or saw her again.”
“Some of her relatives by marriage are very close friends,” Brokaw wrote. “She couldn’t pick up the phone and say, ‘I’d like to talk. I have issues from those two meetings 20 years ago?’ Instead she became a character assassin. Strip away all of the hyperbole and what has she achieved? What was her goal? Hard to believe it wasn’t much more Look At Me than Me:Too.
“I deeply resent the pain and anger she inflicted on my wife, daughters and granddaughters — all women of considerable success and passion about women’s rights which they personify in their daily lives and professions,” he continued. “We’ll go on as a family that pursues social justice in medical emergency rooms, corporate offices, social therapy, African women’s empowerment and journalism. And no one woman’s assault can take that away.”
NBC News Chairman Andy Lack responded Friday with a letter to employees that says “we take allegations as these very seriously, and we act on them quickly and and decisively when the facts dictate.” Here’s his full note:
As you have all seen now in reports from last night, there are allegations against Tom Brokaw, made by a former NBC News journalist, which Tom emphatically denies. As we’ve shown, we take allegations such as these very seriously, and act on them quickly and decisively when the facts dictate. The same report included claims against Matt Lauer. As you know, since the week we terminated Matt’s employment, NBC Universal has been conducting a review, led by general counsel Kim Harris–who has extensive experience in conducting reviews of this kind–with a team of legal and HR leaders. Kim has advised us that the review is nearing its conclusion, and we will have findings and further steps to share with you as soon as next week.
In addition to the review–which has included interviews with employees who worked on TODAY and elsewhere in NBC News, and a substantial culture assessment conducted with hundreds of employees–we also have been running mandatory in-person workplace training sessions. Thus far, 1600 employees have been trained, and the feedback from those sessions has been overwhelmingly positive. We expect to have all 2,000 of our employees trained by end of summer. If you are one of the many who has participated in interviews, the culture assessment sessions and/or the workplace training sessions, thank you. Your participation, feedback and insights are crucial to this process, as we move forward as an organization.
And as we have done regularly over the last few months, and will continue to do frequently, we want to remind you that we encourage all employees to speak up and raise any concerns you have about inappropriate conduct you have experienced or observed. There are multiple avenues available that we have shared with you before, you can also find the details on the intranet NBCNow.
Once again, our highest priority is to ensure we have a workplace environment where everyone feels safe and protected. We are absolutely committed to making this a reality–there can be no exception.
Brokaw last anchored the Nightly News in 2004. He remains a special correspondent for the network.
Click here to read Brokaw’s entire letter.