The NBC Stars Who Aren’t Defending Tom Brokaw After Sexual Harassment Scandal (and Why)
Tom Brokaw is just one of many to get hit with sexual misconduct allegations so far in 2018. The former NBC Nightly News anchor, now 78 years old, was hit by a letter from former NBC correspondent, Linda Vester, claiming that he made unwelcome sexual advances toward her while they were working together in the 1990s — twice.
Brokaw denied the allegations, which were published in Variety and the Washington Post. A whole bunch of former co-workers and colleagues of Brokaw’s came out in support of him, but not everybody. Let’s take a look at who won’t be rushing to Brokaw’s defense (page 5), why they’re reluctant, and more.
The details of the allegations
Vester brought up many of the details of her encounters with Brokaw, some of which paint the legendary anchor as predatory. She described him asking which hotel she was at and suggesting they have a drink. Then on another occasion, she says he suggested they begin an affair — despite his marriage and a near-30-year age difference.
Then, “very quickly,” Vester said later in an interview, Brokaw put his hand behind her neck and gripped her head. “Now let me show you how to give a real kiss,” he said, in Vester’s recollection, and jerked her head toward him. She remembers tensing her neck muscles and using all her strength to wriggle free and stand up. She wrote, “I said ‘Tom . . . I don’t want to do that with you.”
Although many look at such allegations on famous men with an immediately cynical eye, Vester’s attorney has made it clear that she wants nothing for herself in this. Brokaw has not been sued, nor have charges been filed against him.
Next: Brokaw is quick to tell his side
It didn’t take long for Brokaw to give a detailed response to Vester’s allegations of sexual misconduct.
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 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 … I am facing a long list of grievances from a former colleague who left NBC News angry that she had failed in her pursuit of stardom.
While there’s currently no evidence supporting either Brokaw or Vester’s side of the story, that hasn’t stopped some in the news industry from coming toBrokaw’s defense.
Next: A letter of defense
Liz Bowyer to the defense
Despite what we know from the #MeToo era, plenty of people have come out in defense of Brokaw. That includes several women. A letter was penned by Liz Bowyer, who worked as a researcher on Brokaw’s books.
“Tom has treated each of us with fairness and respect,” the letter said. “He has given each of us opportunities for advancement and championed our successes throughout our careers.”
More than 120 names have been attached to the letter, including many women who have worked with Brokaw in the past. Bowyer was careful, however, to stay away from Vester’s allegations. She didn’t mention them in the letter, instead focusing on her own experiences with Brokaw in the past.
Next: One star that refuses to sign
Megyn Kelly preaches caution to those supporting Brokaw
Although many were willing to put their signature on Bowyer’s letter, Today host Megyn Kelly was not one of them. According to Kelly, her experiences at Fox News have given her perspective on not projecting her own experiences onto someone else.
“The truth is, you don’t know what you don’t know,” Kelly told viewers. “And that’s not in any way to impugn Tom, who I love and who has been so good to me. I’m just saying, you don’t know what you don’t know.”
At Fox News, former anchor Gretchen Carlson filed a lawsuit alleging sexual harassment by former executive Roger Ailes. Kelly eventually revealed that she had also experienced sexual misconduct with Ailes, and that led to her departure from the network.
Next: Other NBC stars have yet to defend Brokaw for a different reason.
Other NBC stars aren’t defending Brokaw
Other notable names are missing from the letter, but not necessarily for the reasons you might expect. According to the LA Times:
Many of the biggest female names at the network — including Today co-anchors Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb, NBC Nightly News Sunday anchor Kate Snow, and correspondent Stephanie Gosk, have not put their names on the document, most likely because they are reporting on the story.
Although none of these women have come out with personal statements calling out Brokaw, it’s understandable that they each would stay away from supporting him in the interest of remaining impartial.
Next: Big names who are standing by Brokaw
Others do stand with Brokaw
There are several recognizable names on Bowyer’s letter, people who you wouldn’t normally expect to rush to the defense of a man hit with sexual misconduct allegations. Those signing on the letter include MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow and Mika Brzezinski, as well as NBC anchor Maria Shriver.
But even those who chose to sign the letter may not have felt so comfortable doing so. According to a report in the New York Post, many NBC staffers felt pressured to add their name, fearing repercussions.
We felt forced to sign the letter supporting Brokaw. We had no choice, particularly the lower level staffers. The letter was being handed around the office and the unspoken threat was that if your name was not on it, there would be some repercussion down the road. Execs are watching to see who signed and who didn’t. This was all about coming out in force to protect NBC’s golden boy; the network’s reputation is tied to Brokaw . . . If more women come forward, that’s a big problem.
That’s where the story gets even worse for Brokaw and NBC.
Next: More misonduct allegations
More allegations against Brokaw surface
Following Vester’s allegations, an anonymous woman claimed that Brokaw had also made sexual advances toward her at NBC in the ’90s. And now a third woman, freelance writer Mary Reinholz, has an unsavory story to tell about Brokaw. From her own article in The Villager:
We talked and then, abruptly, he was embracing me and giving me a French kiss. I pulled away, reminding him that he was married and a tryst was out of the question. He said, “Yes, it would be unfair to Meredith,” meaning his wife … Even so, I liked him and wanted to stay friendly. I even called him a couple of times for one reason or another in Los Angeles and once in the early 1970s after I relocated to New York. By then he had been tapped as NBC’s White House correspondent. He was polite, and gave me the telephone number of a government agency I wanted to contact. I never saw him again.
Time will tell if there are others that come forward to tell stories. Even if Brokaw admits to wrongdoings, there will be some who will excuse his behavior as simply a product of the time. After all, Reinholz’s own allegation comes from 70 years ago. But nevertheless, it’s a good lesson in not rushing to the defense of any person accused of offensive behavior.
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