On Thursday, The Washington Post ran a story revolving around NBC’s problems with sexual harassment. Buried in the twelfth paragraph was this tidbit: women who worked with former NBC anchor Tom Brokaw in the 1990s have accused him of sexual harrassment. The Post reported:
Linda Vester, a former NBC correspondent, told The Post that legendary anchor Tom Brokaw made unwanted advances toward her on two occasions in the 1990s, including a forcible attempt to kiss her. Vester was in her 20s and did not file a complaint.
Brokaw denied anything untoward happened with Vester. “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 in a statement issued by NBC. “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.”
Vester, who was 28 at the time of the alleged incidents, recently spoke with Variety in an interview that was published on Thursday.
She stated that in 1993, having been made an NBC correspondent, she was assigned to cover Pope John Paul’s trip to Denver. In the conference room, she said, “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.”
Vester continued that she remembered when Brokaw assaulted her in 1994. Vester alleges that she was in New York, sitting at a desk, when Brokaw sent her a computer message asking her what she was doing that night. She said she answered she had checked out of her hotel and was going to catch the last shuttle back to D.C. before the snowstorm. Vester claimed Brokaw said that it wasn’t a good idea, that he asked her about staying in New York to have drinks, then wrote a second message that said, “Nah, too risky.”
Vester said, “At this point, my antennae went up. I was trying to use humor to signal that I was not interested in whatever he was suggesting, so I wrote, ‘I only drink milk and cookies.’ It was the only thing I could think of at the moment, hoping it would jolt him into realizing that this was inappropriate and I was [nearly] 30 years younger than him. Then I wrote a line that tried more pointedly to make him aware that what he was doing was questionable. This is in my journal. I said: 'There is nothing I would like more than a great chat with someone I admire, but if appearances are a concern, that’s valid.'”
Vester claimed she was scared, so she called her best friend, a producer in the Washington bureau, and told her what was going on. The friend said, “He’s hitting on you and you’ve got to get out of the situation.” Vester claims she missed her flight, returned to the Essex House, checked in, where she got a call from Brokaw that he was coming over to order milk and cookies.
Vester said, “I felt powerless to say no. He could ruin my career. I don’t recall saying, ‘Ok.’ I just remember being frozen. I went cold inside and started shaking. And I felt trapped because he was undeterred by anything I had said before. It wasn’t a request. He was insistent. I called my friend again, and I was scared out of my mind. She said, ‘Ok, I’m going to stay on the phone with you, and let’s hope he changes his mind and doesn’t show up.’ About 30 minutes later, there was a knock at the door. She and I both realize that it’s Tom. I started shaking.”
Vester alleges that after she opened the door and Brokaw entered the room and sat down on the sofa, Vester said she asked, “What do you want from me?”
She claimed he said, “An affair of more than passing affection.” Vester said she stammered, “But you’re married and I’m Catholic.” Brokaw responded, “Don’t tell me you’re like (Tim) Russert.” Vester said she sat down on the sofa and grabbed a throw pillow, then mentioned a sexual harassment case. She said Brokaw leaned over, and pressed a finger to her lips, saying, “This is our compact.”
Vester continued, “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."
Vester spoke of a similar incident in 1995 in London in which she alleges that Brokaw tried to force her to kiss him.
Another woman, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, also told The Post that Brokaw acted inappropriately toward her in the ’90s, when she was a young production assistant and he was an anchor. He said no such incident happened.