For decades, Tom Brokaw was the face of NBC News, anchoring the network’s Nightly News program for 22 years. He also hosted the Today show and was a moderator for Meet The Press. Brokaw has remained at NBC since his retirement from the anchor’s chair in a sort of emeritus role, but now has been accused by two women of sexual misconduct.
Linda Vester, a former NBC News war correspondent in the 1990s who went on to host her own show on Fox News, has come forward detailing her allegations against Brokaw in an interview with Variety. “I was groped and assaulted by Tom Brokaw, then the anchor of NBC Nightly News,” Vester said in a video interview with Variety. Brokaw, in statement to Variety, denied any wrongdoing.
Vester said Brokaw forcibly attempted to kiss her on two occasions, once showed up at her hotel room uninvited and groped her in an NBC conference room in front of colleagues. The first incident occurred, she said, when she was sent to Denver to cover a papal visit. Vester had recently been hired as as a reporter for Weekend Today, and barely new Brokaw at that point.
“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,” Vester recalled. “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.” She was 28 at the time, about 30 years younger than Brokaw.
Vester went on to detail the other incidents, including Brokaw’s attempt to persuade her to go out with him for drinks and her use of humor to delicately defuse the uncomfortable situation, and how Brokaw still showed up later that night at her New York hotel room for “milk and cookies.” She said Brokaw tried to pressure her into having an affair with him before trying to forcibly kiss her. Vester recalled that she was finally able to convince Brokaw to leave, though he tried again to kiss her, and was shaken after the exchange, knowing Brokaw had the power to make or break her career.
Another woman, a production assistant for NBC News in the 1990s who spoke anonymously to The Washington Post, also accused Brokaw of inappropriate behavior. Brokaw has denied both 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 provided 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.” Brokaw has been married since 1962 and these are the first such allegations against him to surface.
The Washington Post also reported a new claim that NBC News executives were warned of Matt Lauer’s predatory behavior. Ann Curry told the Post, in what are her first public remarks about the Lauer fiasco, that an NBC News employee confided in her that Lauer had physically sexually harassed her. She went to her bosses in 2012, protecting the identity of the woman who came to her and naming Lauer. “I told management they had a problem and they needed to keep an eye on him and how he deals with women,” she told the Post. Not long after, Curry was dismissed from her job as a Today co-anchor and Lauer continued anchoring the show until he was fired by NBC News late last year amid a hail of sexual misconduct accusations.
Brokaw on Friday wrote an email to several NBC News colleagues in which he denied the claims against him. In the message, obtained by The Hollywood Reporter, the 78-year-old newsman told called Vester a “character assassin” and said Variety and The Washington Post were complicit in an “ambush” of him, saying that he was “taken to the guillotine and stripped of any honor and achievement I had earned in more than a half century of journalism and citizenship” and went on to attack Vester’s credibility.
Brokaw gave an alternative take on the hotel room meeting he said occurred with Vester, and took credit for landing her a job at Fox News. Brokaw derided her telling of the hotel meeting as “melodramatic” and said he wishes he hadn’t gone to her room that night, but insisted nothing untoward happened.
“Here is a part of her story she somehow left out,” Brokaw wrote in the email. “I think I saw her in the hallways and asked how it was going. She was interested in cable start up [sic] and I said I didn’t think that was going anywhere. What about Fox, which was just building up? She was interested and followed me to my office where, while she listened in, I called Roger Ailes. He said, “send her over.”
He concluded saying Vester’s “sensational” claims could not upend his legacy as a” husband, father, grandfather, journalist and citizen.”
Below, watch the full interview with Vester.