Tom Brokaw, in Email, Angrily Denies Harassment Claim

Tom Brokaw, the longtime NBC News anchor, issued a pointed rebuke on Friday to a former colleague who has accused him of groping and harassing her during the 1990s, describing himself as “angry, hurt and unmoored from what I thought would be the final passage of my life and career.”

In a lengthy email message — written, by his account, at 4 a.m. — Mr. Brokaw angrily rejected the claims of the woman, Linda Vester, a former correspondent at NBC News and Fox News. “I was ambushed and then perp walked across the pages of The Washington Post and Variety,” Mr. Brokaw wrote, referring to the news organizations that on Thursday night published Ms. Vester’s account.

He added, of his accuser, “Hard to believe it wasn’t much more Look At Me than Me:Too.”

In the news reports, Ms. Vester described Mr. Brokaw tickling her in a conference room, asking her to drinks and, on two occasions in New York and London, inviting himself to her hotel room. There, she said, he grabbed her and tried to force her to kiss him.

She said that the encounters had left her feeling humiliated and isolated, and that she had been scared to report Mr. Brokaw’s behavior, fearful it could wreck her career. At the time, Ms. Vester was among the youngest correspondents at NBC News, and Mr. Brokaw, who has been married since 1962, was the most powerful figure in the news division.

A lawyer for Ms. Vester, Ari Wilkenfeld, said on Friday that she “stands by the allegations, which speak for themselves.”

Mr. Brokaw, 78, an NBC veteran of more than 50 years, remains at the network as a special correspondent, an on-air elder statesman of sorts. In a sign of his stature, several NBC stars — including Rachel Maddow, Andrea Mitchell and Stephanie Ruhle — signed a public letter on Friday vouching for him as “a man of tremendous decency and integrity.”

The claims about Mr. Brokaw shook an NBC news division still reeling from the ouster in November of Matt Lauer, the star “Today” show anchor, after numerous women at the network accused him of sexual harassment.

The chairman of NBC News, Andrew Lack, wrote in a staffwide memo on Friday that “we take allegations such as these very seriously, and act on them quickly and decisively when the facts dictate.”

Mr. Lack did not say whether the network had started a formal investigation of Mr. Brokaw, noting only that the anchor “emphatically denies” the claims.

NBC News ordered an internal review of its workplace culture after Mr. Lauer’s firing, although the network did not retain an outside counsel, as Fox News did after it weathered its own harassment scandals. On Friday, Mr. Lack said the review’s findings would be shared as early as next week.

Mr. Brokaw’s 1,037-word email was sent to a small group of recipients who included Mr. Lack; Lester Holt, the “NBC Nightly News” anchor; and David Remnick, the editor of The New Yorker. He offered a contrasting account of his meetings with Ms. Vester, denying that he touched her beyond “a perfunctory goodnight kiss.” He also described helping Ms. Vester secure a job at Fox News by recommending her to the network’s then-chairman, Roger E. Ailes.

The letter supporting Mr. Brokaw was organized by a former producer, Elizabeth Bowyer, and signed by more than 60 of Mr. Brokaw’s former and current female colleagues.

“Dozens of women emailed me directly asking to be included in the letter,” Ms. Bowyer wrote in an email. “The responses are still coming in.”

Content originally published on https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/27/business/media/tom-brokaw-harassment.html by MICHAEL M. GRYNBAUM