NBC News legend Tom Brokaw on Friday issued a searing rebuttal after being accused of sexual harassment by a former colleague whom he painted as bitter because she “failed in her pursuit of stardom.”
Brokaw allegedly made unwanted sexual advances against multiple women in the 1990s, a bombshell set of reports said Thursday. According to The Washington Post, Brokaw, 78, made unwanted moves on Linda Vester, a former NBC correspondent and former Fox News anchor, twice during the 1990s. The report also detailed the claims of an anonymous woman who told the outlet Brokaw acted inappropriately toward her during her time as a production assistant in the 1990s and Variety published similar claims.
Brokaw emailed NBC News staffers the intense denial obtained by The Hollywood Reporter. The former “NBC Nightly News” anchor called said it was the first day of his “new life as an accused predator in the universe of American journalism” before unloading on his accuser with personal attacks.
“I was ambushed and then perp walked across the pages of The Washington Post and Variety as an avatar of male misogyny, taken to the guillotine and stripped of any honor and achievement I had earned in more than a half century of journalism and citizenship.”
“I was ambushed and then perp-walked across the pages of The Washington Post and Variety as an avatar of male misogyny, taken to the guillotine and stripped of any honor and achievement I had earned in more than a half century of journalism and citizenship,” Brokaw wrote. “I am angry, hurt and unmoored from what I thought would be the final passage of my life and career, a mix of written and broadcast journalism, philanthropy and participation in environmental and social causes that have always given extra meaning to my life.”
Brokaw then called Vester “a former colleague who left NBC News angry that she had failed in her pursuit of stardom” and said she unleashed a torrent of unsubstantiated criticism and attacks on me more than twenty years after I opened the door for her and a new job at Fox News.”
The iconic newsman said Vester was “given the run of the Washington Post and Variety to vent her grievances” before making light of some of the accusations – a rarity during the #MeToo movement from a public figure. He wrote that Vester complained to the Post about unwanted ticking, adding “You read that right,” in parenthesis.
“My family and friends are stunned and supportive. My NBC colleagues are bewildered that Vester, who had limited success at NBC News, a modest career at Fox and a reputation as a colleague who had trouble with the truth, was suddenly the keeper of the flame of journalistic integrity,” Brokaw emailed colleagues.
“Her big charge: that on two occasions more than 20 years ago I made inappropriate and uninvited appearances in her apartment and in a hotel room.”
He continued to mock Vester: “Her big charge: that on two occasions more than 20 years ago I made inappropriate and uninvited appearances in her apartment and in a hotel room. As an eager beginner, Vester, like others in that category, was eager for advice and camaraderie with senior colleagues. She often sought me out for informal meetings, including the one she describes in her New York hotel room.”
Brokaw then admits he “should not have gone” but denied unwanted advances.
“I emphatically did not verbally and physically attack her and suggest an affair in language right out of pulp fiction,” he wrote.
Brokaw then detailed his version of a visit to Vester’s apartment when her “hospitality” was straight forward and his account of the alleged kiss didn’t coincide with her version.
“As I got up to leave I may have leaned over for a perfunctory goodnight kiss, but my memory is that it happened at the door – on the cheek. No clenching her neck. That move she so vividly describes is NOT WHO I AM. Not in high school, college or thereafter,” Brokaw wrote.
For much of the remainder of the lengthy email, Brokaw took a series of personal jabs at his accuser. He brought up that she “married a wealthy man” and portrays herself as a “den mother,” who has common friends with Brokaw who would have set up a private meeting. He also claimed she had “mixed success” on the overnight news and botched an audition to join the “Today” show. He claims he personally called Fox News on her behalf, which resulted in her employment.
“As I write this at dawn on the morning after a drive by [sic] shooting by Vester, the Washington Post and Variety, I am stunned by the free ride given a woman with a grudge against NBC News, no distinctive credentials or issue passions while at Fox,” he wrote. “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.”
Brokaw ended the email by stating that his family life will go on despite the efforts of The Washington Post and Variety (The Post spoke to friends of Vester, who corroborated her account).
In an email to staff late Friday afternoon, NBC News chairman Andy Lack addressed the Brokaw situation but offered no defense of the “Nightly News” legend .
“As you have seen now in reports from last night, there are allegations against Tom Brokaw, made by a former NBC News journalist, which Tom emphatically denies,” Lack said. “As we’ve shown, we take allegations such as these very seriously, and act on them quickly and decisively when the facts dictate.”
Brokaw did not respond to a request for additional comment.
Matt Richardson contributed to this report.