WaPo: Tom Brokaw was sexually harassing & groping women at NBC News too

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This is Part 2 of our coverage of the Washington Post’s bombshell report which dropped last night. Part 1 was devoted to Ann Curry’s Revenge: Ann confirming that she knew Matt Lauer was a serial sexual harasser and abuser as early as 2012, and that she warned NBC executives about it at the time. For that, NBC allowed Matt Lauer to throw his pervert weight around and they fired Curry, not Lauer. WaPo’s article is about how NBC News has f–ked up repeatedly over the years when dealing with problematic harassers and abusers in their midst. And there was another one besides Matt Lauer too. Tom Brokaw is named by two women, two former NBC News employees, as a sexual harasser and abuser.

You can read the full WaPo story here. WaPo spoke to both women at length – one woman went on the record as a named source, the other woman wanted to remain anonymous. Both had horrifying stories. Linda Vester’s first harassing encounter with Brokaw happened in January 1994, when she was stranded in New York because of a snowstorm, and Brokaw barged his way into her hotel room:

One day in January 1994, Vester remembers being in New York on assignment, staying at the Essex House, the regular hotel for NBC staff. As she was preparing to return to Washington, she received a “top line” message from Brokaw, the managing editor and anchor of “NBC Nightly News.” Top lines were short internal messages within NBC’s system that allowed staff to communicate easily with one another. Vester said Brokaw asked her where she was staying and what she was doing that night. “I replied that I had checked out of my hotel and was going to catch the last shuttle back to D.C. before the coming snowstorm,” Vester remembered recently. Every correspondent’s travel and hotel plans were kept in a group file available to anyone on NBC News’s computer system.

Brokaw wrote back that that wasn’t a good idea, Vester said. “My gut told me his intentions were not good,” she wrote in her diary later that night, and which she supplied to The Post. So she called her best friend and mentor at the network, a producer in the Washington bureau, who has corroborated to The Post the principal aspects of Vester’s account. Vester said Brokaw wrote that it would be better for Vester to stay in New York. They could have a drink. Vester, at a loss, replied, “I only drink milk and cookies,” according to her diary.

“It was the only thing I could think of at the time, hoping the reference to milk and cookies would make him realize I was 30 years his junior and not interested,” Vester said in an interview. In her diary she wrote that her final note to Brokaw was, “There is nothing I would like more than a good chat — a great talk with someone I admire. But if appearances are a concern . . . that’s valid.”

Vester said, “I was trying to suggest that if he was worried that what he was suggesting might look wrong, it was wrong.” Vester’s friend, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because she signed a non-disclosure agreement when she left NBC, urged Vester to sign off quickly from the system to limit further communication. As the snow began, she missed the last shuttle, stranding her in New York. She returned to Essex House and updated her whereabouts. In her diary entries, made around 3 in the morning after the encounter, she wrote, “Once in my room . . . I received three phone calls. One from a friend, another from a source; the third was Tom Brokaw. He said to order milk and cookies and he was coming over.”

Vester said she was terrified that if she refused to meet with him, “my career at NBC would be over before it even got going.” She called her producer friend, who agreed to stay on the phone with her. Soon, Vester heard a knock on the door. The friend in Washington told Vester to call her back in 30 minutes or she would alert the front desk to come to her room. Vester said she opened the door, and Brokaw walked past her and sat on the sofa in her suite.

Brokaw has a distinctly different recollection of the evening. He remembered being invited over to Vester’s room that evening, a characterization that Vester rejects, as does the friend who was on the phone with Vester that night.

“What do you want from me?” Vester said she asked him. She recalled him looking at her with mild exasperation. “An affair of more than passing affection,” Brokaw told her.

“But you’re married,” she said. “And I’m Catholic.” Then Brokaw patted the sofa next to him, she said, while she sat down on the opposite end of the couch. She brought up a sexual harassment case that had been uncovered at NBC just recently, to try to signal she was not interested in what she felt was about to happen. Brokaw leaned over, “pressed his index finger to my lips and said, ‘This is our compact,’ ” she wrote in her diary at the time. “My insides shook. I went completely cold.”

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.” Brokaw sat silent for a few minutes, then finally said, “I think I should go.” Vester nodded vigorously.

The next day, Vester said, she and Brokaw spoke, and he attempted to make the interaction seem consensual. Vester didn’t agree. Later, she met with another friend who corroborated in an interview that Vester was “rattled” by the episode and “disappointed” in what had happened given her respect for Brokaw.

A second incident unfolded in London more than a year later, Vester said. She saw no way to extract herself from being in Brokaw’s company because she feared alienating the anchor, she said, but again warded off his advances.

[From The Washington Post]

Ughhhhhh. I honestly thought Brokaw was one of the “good ones” but it turns out that he was a dirtbag like all the rest of them. The second woman to come forward – anonymously – said that around the same time, in the mid-’90s, Brokaw sexually harassed her in a HALLWAY. She was coming inside on a cold day, still wearing her winter coat, and Brokaw pulled her aside, groped her and suggested that she come to his office to talk about a career advancement. She was only 24 years old at the time. Gross. This whole thing is gross.

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58 Responses to “WaPo: Tom Brokaw was sexually harassing & groping women at NBC News too”

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  1. PunkyMomma says:

    This is disappointing.

  2. OriginalLala says:

    NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! oh man, I had the hugest crush on Tom Brokaw when I was in elementary school, I would watch NBC Nightly News every night (and I’m not even American!) just to see him. This is very disappointing :(

  3. Who ARE these people? says:

    So much for his own personal Greatest Generation. Ugh.

    Combine this behavior with the rise of the “incel” movement. and it becomes ever more clear to women how we are still viewed as male playthings, male property and expendable.

  4. Anastasia Beaverhausen says:

    Man GD powerful white men. I’m honestly still processing this. I thought he was one of the good ones.

  5. Maya says:

    That just leaves David Attenborough for me now😔

  6. Originaltessa says:

    Seriously? This is like finding out my dad is a dirtbag. I’ve had absolute trust and admiration for Brokaw my whole life. Sad.

    • kNY says:

      I always thought he was a jerk, but I do find this kind of surprising. The Matt Lauer stuff – yes, that was almost obvious. This, not so much. But I was more shocked about Charlie Rose.

      • Stella Alpina says:

        I wasn’t shocked about Charlie Rose. Many years ago while browsing in the magazine aisle, I picked up Radar and read an article with anonymous sources dishing about famous news anchors. I remember the article saying that Paula Zahn was dumb when she wasn’t reading news from a teleprompter. Rose was described as lecherous.

        A lot of men seek power and influence (and most in such positions are white) so they can lord it over and abuse others. Add Tom to the list.

        They need to get rid of all the people in charge at NBC.

  7. Giddy says:

    This makes me sick. Literally sick. I wish that I could go throw up and rid myself of the sadness and disappointment I feel. Another hero bites the dust.

  8. kNY says:

    I’ve had to recently deal with my own workplace harassment. I was determined not to tell anyone and try my best to be invisible (because I move to another job in another state next year). I was concerned about my job, about how it would effect what I’ve worked so hard for, and I didn’t want to seem “difficult”. And then it kept going on and I had to say something or I would break. I handled it in the most discreet manner possible and it is over. What hits me hardest is that we (women) have to gauge our reactions because we have to think about our jobs. If he was a random person at the hotel who tried to get into her room, she would scream, call the cops. But he held her future in his hands. That is abuse on two levels, because not only is it physical/sexual, but holding a career hostage is another layer of cruel abuse.

    The head of the NBC morning news and the head of the NBC evening news were abusive asses. Something is rotten at 30 Rock.

    • adastraperaspera says:

      I quit a great job once, because my manager would not stop coming on to me and making me go on work trips with him. I was sick about it, but the start up was so small at the time that I knew that even if I confronted the situation, I would still have to be managed by him. I had no faith the company owner would get rid of him. It ruined my chance to advance in what has now grown to the #1 company in its industry. I am sorry now that I did not stand up for myself. But it’s extremely difficult. I applaud you for facing and handling your harassment head on! Hang in there!

    • Kitten says:

      Your comment resonated with me so much. You so effectively conveyed the impossible conundrum that women face when dealing with workplace harassment. Good for you for being so strong and in my opinion, brave.

      • kNY says:

        Thanks very much. I had a million reasons not to tell when he initially escalated to a point where I wanted to get HR involved. I moved offices, made myself invisible – it honestly affected my work but I thought it was worth it because no one would know. And then he did it again despite my efforts and I realized I was absolutely miserable and nothing was worth that feeling. I was going to break. I can’t even begin to describe the weight off my shoulders after I told my boss. She said: “This is harassment and it WILL stop.” To feel validated that way…I have no words.

    • Christin says:

      I am glad that you took steps to end the harassment, and that your boss stood with you.

      So much for “zero tolerance”, when you see something like this in action, and the players end up rewarded (which happened where I work, over a 20-year period with a senior exec who was aggravating young women until he retired).

  9. Darla says:

    Yeah abuse seems to be the norm there. Remember that only recently that video of Chris Matthews asking if he should “bill cosby” Hillary Clinton’s water came out. And what was so apparent is that all of the men laughed but there was one woman in the scene, and she was shocked and horrified. IMO SHE was in a hostile work environment. And what happened to Matthews? Why, absolutely nothing.

  10. Bridget says:

    None of this is shocking. Powerful man, working with young women, who’s deluded himself into thinking that he could trade a sexual relationship for him being in the role of a “mentor”. The most interesting part to me is that he clearly did not clue in to the fact that she was not interested until she turned him down to his face.

  11. Betsy says:

    OMG MEN! Why can’t you behave yourselves? Why do you threaten people’s livelihoods? What is WRONG with you?

    I’m not shocked, exactly. It’s not like I’m green or anything, but the scope, the protection that these criminals got/get… it just blows my mind.

    Next we’ll find out Ken Burns is a serial rapist. FTR (I know people who know him professionally and he’s a little full of himself, but I haven’t ever heard anything criminal)

    • Darla says:

      My mechanic is a little full of himself. It doesn’t take much for men. I am sure Ken Burns is.

    • Kitten says:

      Totally. I’m unsurprised yet so….tired. Tired of hearing about so many men who acted unconscionably because they could. It’s hard to fully accept how widespread this toxic, predatory behavior is. Makes me so thankful for good guys like my BF but also so scared for other women out there, particularly those who are marginalized and may not have the ability or the resources to hold their harasser responsible.

      I hate that it so often falls on women to fix this problem. Sigh.

  12. Jess says:

    Jesus Christ, I shouldn’t be surprised but I am, and I’m a little hurt! I feel betrayed, we trusted him!

  13. Svea says:

    Saw a tell-all book proposal on this twenty years ago by a female staffer. Apparently he has considered himself quite the swordsman and secret rebel. The book was never published, but I’ve seen him as gross ever since. Ditto Matt Lauer. NBC has had quite the problem.

    • Stella Alpina says:

      It implies that the men in charge at NBC think and/or operate the same way as Lauer and Brokaw.

      Never warmed up to Brokaw because I thought he wasn’t a good speaker. Always sounded like he had a chronic case of nasal congestion.

  14. lucy2 says:

    I’m surprised by this – not that it happened, it seems very few men in a position of power have the ability to control themselves and not be predators, but that it’s coming out now, quite a while after the rush of exposures and Lauer’s firing. I applaud the women for coming forward, I can imagine this has been a long time coming for them and they’ve probably agonized over it for some time.

    Man, they need to burn NBC news to the ground and start over with all women.

  15. Mabs A'Mabbin says:

    And to think, all these years, listening to their ‘bodies of work’…makes me sick. No worries though. He’ll retreat to his palatial abode like the rest of ‘em, smiling all the way. Manipulating a good plan and time for his next appearance. Barf.

  16. Esmom says:

    I have been beside myself this week following everything that’s coming out of MSU beyond the Larry Nassar stuff. Now reading this, I feel like predators and enablers are everywhere, in every institution. Thank goodness some are being exposed but I shudder to think how many have not. I feel so hopeless. I feel like we are living in an utter nightmare.

    • Natalie S. says:

      It feels like women have to navigate in a fog of predators.

      • me says:

        I don’t know about you, but I’ve always felt that way. I don’t trust men period. Actually, I don’t trust anybody.

      • Esmom says:

        Natalie S, it does.

        me, I’m so sorry. I must be incredibly fortunate because in my 50 years I have not had to deal with a sexual predator (knock on wood) other than fending off a few over zealous drunk guys in college. Which is not great, I know, but seems minor in the grand scheme of things. I worked in advertising for over 25 years and ended up being part of a senior staff that was a total good ol’ boys’ club. As generally privileged and tone deaf as they were about a lot of things, they were not sexual predators or harassers.

    • Betsy says:

      It is a nightmare. But is it a nightmare better or worse that these punks are being exposed, even if they’re not being fairly punished? I would guess it’s better. All my #metoo moments have mainly been the little kind, the non-life threatening kind, but I wonder if just knowing how much company women have is helpful. I sense it is – it validates that you’re not crazy. There really is a cabal of sexual assaulters and they are being protected.

  17. homeslice says:

    I haven’t like him since he retired. He acts so holier than thou. He was pushing for Brian Williams demise and now we find out he is worse. Ugh.

  18. Anastasia says:

    Oh my GOD, no. Welp, he’s canceled for me forever.

    DAN RATHER BETTER NOT BE ONE OF THEM. PLEASE.

    • I went to a dinner party where I was seated next to him, in the seventies. Despite the fact that his wife was sitting across the table from us, for the entire night he flirted with me openly, at one point dumping his after dinner liqueur in my drink. I was in my twenties and at the peak of my attractiveness and right in his line of sight. It was flattering and disgusting at the same time—I think that about sums up the predicament of the prey of these entitled, thoughtless narcissists. Later I heard nothing but gossip about his philandering. Have been waiting for Brokaw’s victims to begin revealing their experiences. There must be many. He was a powerful man, and it would’ve been frightening to stand up and speak about his lascivious behavior if it seemed one’s job depended on his good will.

  19. Sorry to have been unclear—my experience was at a dinner with Tom Brokaw.

  20. JRenee says:

    Still stunned and disappointed as hell

  21. Patty says:

    Did something else happen? Flirting in front of ones spouse is stupid and disrespectful but that doesn’t make him an abuser. Anywho, I just saw a bunch of powerful women in the media have come to his defense. It will be interesting to see what happens……..

  22. kate says:

    Rachel Maddow, Andrea Mitchell, Mika Brzezinski, Maria Shriver and other women (about 60ish in all) have signed a testimonial letter supporting this sexual predator. The article is up at http://deadline.com/2018/04/rachel-maddow-andrea-mitchell-letter-tom-brokaw-harass-linda-vester-nbc-news-1202378644/ .

    It seems that as long as he didn’t harass any of them, he’s a “man of tremendous decency and integrity”. They make me sick.