Months after NBC News fired “Today” host Matt Lauer over sexual misconduct allegations, the network once again sparked controversy after two of its former employees accused legendary journalist and broadcaster Tom Brokaw, who has been with NBC since 1976.
As reported by The Washington Post, former NBC News war correspondent Linda Vester alleged Brokaw made unwanted sexual advances, showed up uninvited at her hotel room, groped her and attempted to forcibly kiss her on at least two occasions in the 1990s.
Vester, who was a correspondent for “Weekend Today” at the time of the alleged incident, was in her late 20s at the time and did not report the harassment to the NBC human resources or the authorities because she was afraid it would end her career.
In a series of interviews with the Variety, Vester explained she was covering Pope John Paul's visit in August 1993 when she had her first disturbing encounter with Brokaw, who is now 78-years-old.
“We were in the Denver bureau, and there was a conference room. I’m standing there, and Tom Brokaw enters through the door and grabs me from behind and proceeds to tickle me up and down my waist. I jumped a foot and I looked at a guy who was the senior editor of ‘Nightly,’ and his jaw was hanging open,” the 52-year-old recalled. “Nobody acted like anything wrong was happening, but I was humiliated. I didn’t know Brokaw other than to say hello in the hall. He was the most powerful man at the network, and I was the most junior person, reporting for an entirely different show. It was really out of the blue.”
She also pointed out why she stayed silent about it.
“There was a culture at NBC News, in my experience, where women who raise questions about misconduct get labeled as troublemakers. It can torpedo your career,” Vester continued. “I already knew that, so I didn't want to make any trouble. I had just been hired full-time, and I wanted to be able to do my job. I did my best to collect myself and get on with my work.”
She recounted another incident that allegedly took place in January 1994.
Vester, who has spent three tours of duty in the Middle East and two in Africa, said she was in New York for an assignment when Brokaw reached out to him.
“I was preparing to go back to Washington D.C., where I lived. And I was sitting at a borrowed desk, when I received a computer message from Tom Brokaw asking me what I was doing that night,” she recounted. “I barely knew him and I didn’t work for his broadcast. But when the most powerful man at the network sends you a computer message, you answer him. So I replied that I had checked out of my hotel and I was going to catch the last shuttle back to D.C. before the snowstorm.”
Brokaw allegedly asked her to get drinks with him but then admitted it was too “risky.” Alarmed by his advances, Vester said she not only contacted one of her friends and told her about the NBC anchor, but also wrote down the details of that night in her journal. Vester claimed Brokaw allegedly showed up uninvited at her hotel after she missed her flight.
“Every correspondent’s travel was kept in a central file that anyone can access, so anybody could tell where I was,” she said. I received three calls that night. One was from a friend. Another was from a source. And the third was from Tom Brokaw. He said he was coming over to order milk and cookies. I felt powerless to say no. 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. It wasn’t a request. He was insistent.”
It was in that hotel room he allegedly tried to assault her.
“He grabbed me behind my neck and tried to force me to kiss him. I was shocked to feel the amount of force and his full strength on me,” Vester claimed. “I could smell alcohol on his breath, but he was totally sober. He spoke clearly. He was in control of his faculties.”
When Vester forcefully informed him she didn’t want any of it, he agreed to leave – but not before trying to kiss her.
The second time this allegedly happened was in May 1995 after she had moved to London. Brokaw was also hosting his “Nightly News” from the same city at the time. Vester claimed e again tried to kiss her while she – along with several other BNC correspondents – was covering the 50th anniversary of the VE Day.
According to The Washington Post, another former NBC employee who worked as a production assistant at the time, anonymously told the newspaper Brokaw also made unwanted advances towards her, prompting her to leave the network altogether.
Vester also left NBC in 1999.
Unsurprisingly, Brokaw has denied her claims.
“I met with Linda Vester on two occasions, both at her request, 23 years ago, because she wanted advice with respect to her career at NBC,” he said in a statement issued by NBC. “The meetings were brief, cordial and appropriate, and despite Linda’s allegations, I made no romantic overtures towards her, at that time or any other.”
Brokaw also refuted the allegations put forward by the second woman.
In a time of #MeToo and Time’s Up movement, women across the world are taking a stand against their sexual assailants and harassers, regardless of their profession, in order to expose the magnitude of the problem that is prevalent in every single profession.
Thumbnail / Banner : Reuters, Fred Prouser