Longtime NBC anchor Tom Brokaw has been accused of repeated sexual harassment by Linda Vester, a former journalist and anchor for NBC and Fox News.
In interviews with Variety, which the magazine says were corroborated by Vester’s friends as well as her journal entries from the time, Vester said that Brokaw groped her in a conference room, tried to forcibly kiss her on two separate occasions, and once showed up at her hotel room uninvited.
Vester said the first incident happened in 1993, when she was covering a trip by Pope John Paul II to Denver, where Brokaw groped her:
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. 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.
“There was a culture at NBC News, in my experience, where women who raise questions about misconduct get labeled as troublemakers,” Vester said of why she didn’t report the incident. “It can torpedo your career. I already knew that, so I didn’t want to make any trouble.”
Vester was a correspondent at NBC in the first half of the 1990s, covering (among other stories) the Gulf War and the Rwandan genocide. She later served as an anchor at both NBC and MSNBC. She was later hired by Fox News in 1999, where she stayed until 2006.
Vester said another incident happened in early January 1994, in her hotel room in New York. She says she repeatedly tried to make it as clear as possible to Brokaw that she wasn’t interested in him romantically, but that Brokaw came to her hotel room anyway.
“As I stood there, I asked in a frustrated and scared tone, ‘What do you want from me?’” she recalled. She says Brokaw responded: “An affair of more than passing affection.” Then, after she says she brought up a case of sexual harassment, Brokaw tried to forcibly kiss 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. I could smell alcohol on his breath, but he was totally sober. He spoke clearly. He was in control of his faculties.
I broke away and stood up and said, “Tom, I do not want to do this with you. If I did, I would leave for London with a loss of innocence and I don’t want to go down that road.” I had just been promoted to foreign correspondent in the London bureau.
He sat there for what felt like minutes and he finally said, “I guess I should go.” I said, “Yeah.” And he got up and tried to kiss me again on the way out as he left.
A year later, in London, Vester said that Brokaw showed up to her apartment uninvited and again tried to forcibly kiss her:
In the same exact way as in 1994, he reached behind my neck and tried to force my head toward him and force me to kiss him. I broke away again. I said, “You need to go.” And incredibly, he said, “Can you walk me to a taxi?” I thought, “You just tried to assault me, but you expect me to walk you to a taxi?”
Brokaw has denied Vester’s allegations. “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,” Brokaw said in a statement to Variety. “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.”
In a separate story by the Washington Post published on Thursday night—about NBC News’ handling of the Matt Lauer sexual harassment scandal, and workers’ skepticism that a workplace “in which powerful men such as Lauer were known to pursue sexual relationships with more junior women” can be reformed—the Post said that another former NBC employee said that Brokaw “acted inappropriately toward her” in the 1990s, when she was a young production assistant. Brokaw denied that incident too, telling the Post that “no such incident happened.”
“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,” Vester told Variety. “I really do hope that by me telling my story and by shining this light, Comcast will understand why it’s so essential to hire outside counsel to investigate this deeply rooted problem.”