Late Thursday night, the Washington Post published a story shedding new light on sexual harassment at NBC News.
The report offered more insight into the firing of Matt Lauer, who was let go from the network last November after he was accused multiple times of inappropriate sexual behavior towards female staff.
Lauer, however, may not be the only household name accused of this behavior. According to both the Post and Variety, Tom Brokaw, a special correspondent for NBC News and the retired anchor of NBC Nightly News, has been accused of sexual predation by a former NBC correspondent named Linda Vester.
Vester told Variety that in the 1990s, Brokaw tried to force her into kissing him on more than one occasion and groped her in a company conference room.
Brokaw initially denied the allegations flatly and plainly, saying he made “no romantic overtures towards her at that time or any other,” but in the hours since the story first broke, Brokaw apparently decided he should say more.
In a lengthy letter sent to colleagues Friday, Brokaw slammed Vester and the allegations — using damning language that some have likened to Bill O’Reilly’s when he faced with sexual harassment allegations of his own.
It would be difficult to appropriately sum up all the egregious, victim-blaming language used by Brokaw so let’s just tick through the worst of it.
“It is 4:00 am…”
Brokaw begins his letter by writing, “It is 4:00 am on the first day of my new life as an accused predator in the universe of American journalism.”
If you have to start off a letter by addressing how late it is, it is probably in your best interest to close your computer, get some sleep, and address your colleagues with a well-rested mind in the morning.
“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.
Brokaw is not in prison. He was not “perp walked.” He’s mostly retired from life in the spotlight.
The aftermath of the #MeToo movement has reaffirmed the belief that men accused of sexual harassment and misconduct will likely be given the opportunity to resuscitate their careers, as evidenced by a recent Page Six report, which notes that Lauer “is said to be testing the waters for a public comeback.”
Brokaw will probably be just fine.
He takes credit for, and later attacks, his accuser’s career.
“She has unleashed a torrent of unsubstantiated criticism and attacks on my more than twenty years after I opened the door for her and a new job at Fox News,” Brokaw wrote of Vester.
Taking credit for his accuser’s career and using it as leverage is a bad look, particularly when Vester was already an accomplished young journalist before she became an NBC foreign correspondent.
Later in the letter, he attacks her integrity as a journalist, writing, “My 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 also throws in a tidbit that she had “mixed success” on the overnight news shift, and that her TODAY show audition did not go well.
Lots of victim-blaming.
Brokaw describes Vester in the 1990s as an “eager beginner” who sought him out for informal meetings, including the one she described in her New York hotel room where Vester alleges Brokaw showed up uninvited and attempted to kiss her.
He goes on to ask why she never came forward in the 20 years after the incident, hinting at ulterior motives and using her wealth and marriage against her.
“As a private citizen who married a wealthy man she has been active in social causes but she came to Me:Too late, portraying herself as a den mother,” Brokaw wrote.
For the record: it is never too late for women to come forward with their stories of sexual harassment.
“What was her goal? Hard to believe it wasn’t much more Look At Me than Me: Too,” Brokaw wrote.
That Brokaw would be so insensitive to a female accuser should really come as no surprise to those familiar with comments he has made about the #MeToo movement.
In a January appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press, he complained that there was “no system in place” to deal with such accusations, deriding them as “tabloid fodder.”
My big issue with it is that I think it’s well overdue, frankly, to have the kind of disclosure that we’re seeing, but there has to be some kind of codification. The difference between Harvey Weinstein and Steve Wynn and then other people down at the other end who are getting the same front page treatment, for example, don’t have a chance to speak out, don’t get to confront the people who are accusing them. We’ve got to get some kind of a system in place for dealing with all of this beyond what we’re doing now. It’s all tabloid fodder and it’s — and that’s not good for the country.
“But as I write this at dawn on the morning after a drive by 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,” Brokaw wrote.
Again, Brokaw insults Vester’s career by insinuating she wasn’t successful at her work. That, of course, should have no bearing on the accusations. Does Brokaw believe that only accusations made by well-known public figures be taken seriously?
The phrase “drive-by” as it refers to media is a favorite of conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh, who uses it to describe his critics.
“They scare the hell out of people. They literally cause carnage. Their actions sometimes are destructive and ruinous to individuals,” Limbaugh said on his radio show in 2007. “They kill the reputations of people, or try to. And then they get in the convertible, they head on down the highway and they find the next group of people to do the same thing to while there are those of us who have to go in and clean up the mess.”