Former NBC Correspondent Accuses Tom Brokaw Of Sexual Misconduct

Apr 27, 2018
Originally published on April 27, 2018 3:56 pm

Updated 3:55 p.m. ET

A woman who worked as an NBC correspondent says longtime network anchor Tom Brokaw made unwanted advances, including groping her and trying forcibly to kiss her, some two decades ago. Brokaw denied the claims in a email to his colleagues on Friday.

Linda Vester, who covered the Middle East and Africa for NBC and later joined Fox News, was in her 20s at the time she alleges Brokaw made the advances, Variety magazine reports.

Vester produced contemporaneous journals that corroborated her story, the magazine says.

Brokaw, now 78, initially responded through an NBC spokesman.

"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. "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."

On Friday, Brokaw sent an email to colleagues, in which he accused The Washington Post and Variety of making him "an avatar of male misogyny," and accused Vester of being a "character assassin":

Vester says that in Aug. 1993, she was in Denver to cover the visit of Pope John Paul II.

"While I was standing there in the Denver bureau with my back to the door, from behind me, out of nowhere, Tom Brokaw walked up, put his hands on my waist and tickled me all up and down my waist," she said.

"It was physically unpleasant and humiliating," Vester told Variety. "I jumped a foot [and] looked the editor of Nightly News in the eye. He looked back at me, and his jaw dropped."

"No one did a thing," she said. "And, there was nothing I could really do or say because I was so low on the totem pole."

She described another incident in New York when Brokaw insisted on visiting her in her hotel room and then twice tried to kiss her.

"I felt trapped, because it wasn't a request, it was more like an order," she said.

"I barely knew him and I didn't work for his broadcast," she said. "But when the most powerful man at the network sends you a computer message, you answer him."

Vester, who was hired by NBC in 1989, left in 1999 to join Fox News, where she remained until 2006.

According to Variety: "She's speaking out now, because she believes her story sheds light on the culture at NBC News, where she believes male bosses treated their female colleagues as objects. After Today co-host Matt Lauer was fired for inappropriate conduct involving an NBC employee last November, NBC launched an internal review of its practices but didn't bring in an outside firm to investigate — a step Vester believes is necessary to fix NBC's culture."

Brokaw is one of several prominent media figures accused of sexual misconduct in recent months at various news organizations, including NPR.

NPR correspondent David Folkenflik contributed to this report.

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A former NBC News correspondent is accusing Tom Brokaw. She says Brokaw groped and forcibly tried to kiss her in the 1990s. NPR's Scott Neuman has more.

SCOTT NEUMAN, BYLINE: Linda Vester, who worked for NBC for a decade before moving to Fox in 1999, tells Variety magazine that Brokaw made unwanted advances toward her on two occasions in the 1990s. In August 1993, Vester says she was in Denver to cover the visit of Pope John Paul II.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

LINDA VESTER: While I was standing in the Denver bureau with my back to the door, from behind me out of nowhere, Tom Brokaw walked up, put his hands on my waist and tickled me all up and down my waist. It was physically unpleasant and humiliating.

NEUMAN: Months later in New York, Vester says Brokaw showed up at her hotel room. She began by exchanging computer messages with him. And Vester says she tried to dissuade him from coming to her room. When she voiced objections to a proposed affair from Brokaw, Vester says...

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

VESTER: At that point, he took the same hand, reached behind my head and tried to force me to kiss him. I pulled back with all the strength I could muster and stood up.

NEUMAN: In a statement issued by NBC, the 78-year-old Brokaw says he met Vester on two occasions 23 years ago, that she requested the meetings to discuss her career. He says the meetings were brief, cordial and appropriate and that he never made any romantic overtures toward her.

Brokaw is the second major figure at NBC to be accused of sexual misconduct after several women came forward last year to accuse former host Matt Lauer. Just as the Brokaw story was breaking, Lauer, who was fired from "The Today Show" over the allegations, broke his silence, acknowledging that he acted inappropriately but denying he had ever been coercive, aggressive or abusive. Vester, who worked in war zones for NBC, has since left the news business altogether. She says it was NBC's internal investigation following the allegations against Lauer that prompted her to come forward.

Scott Neuman, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF GOGO PENGUIN'S "BARDO") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.