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Linda Vester, the former NBC correspondent who recently accused Tom Brokaw of making unwanted advances and acting inappropriately during their time working together in the 1990s, penned a column for The Washington Post, published Wednesday, to explain why she came forward in the first place.
“I am not filing a lawsuit; I am not asking NBC or Brokaw for money,” Vester wrote. “I came forward for a simple reason: to let the public know that otherwise good men — men who treat women well or are even their champions — can also commit acts of sexual harassment.”
Vester said she didn’t confront Brokaw in private because she felt it wouldn’t accomplish her objective of demonstrating to past, present and future victims that it’s safe to speak up about workplace harassment. “And I spoke out publicly to make the related point to his employer: People in power at NBC News, and all institutions, must take such accusations seriously,” Vester wrote. “Rallying around the star anchor is an understandable instinct, but it is the wrong one. And one high-profile firing is not enough.”
Vester also condemned Brokaw’s rebuttal to the accusations. The longtime NBC news anchor penned an email explaining he was “angry, hurt and unmoored” from what he thought would be “the final passage of [his] life and career, a mix of written and broadcast journalism, philanthropy and participation in environmental and social causes that have always given extra meaning to [his] life.” He also denied Vester’s detailed claims and said she “had failed in her pursuit of stardom.”
“I expected a denial from Brokaw, although his vehemence and spitefulness took me aback,” Vester wrote. “He denied the truth and instead attacked my career and my motives. Shaming and blaming a victim has long been the effective strategy when women speak out. It also served to maintain the silence — discouraging other women away from coming forward. Brokaw’s letter follows that dated playbook.”
Vester said she was also surprised at the number of “prominent” and “important” women at NBC that signed a letter supporting Brokaw. She didn’t doubt their statement — that Brokaw treated them with respect — but she acknowledged recent reports that some of the women felt “pressured” to sign the letter.
“NBC also required its own journalists to mention the petition of support concurrently with reports on the harassment story,” added Vester. “There is nothing wrong with standing up for a friend or a co-worker. But NBC News’ actions had the effect of communicating to other victims that they wouldn’t be believed and would be better off staying silent.”
To Vester, the letter highlights an issue that she wants the #MeToo movement to address: “Not all harassers are cartoonish bogeymen who mistreat every woman in their path. It isn’t really relevant that while a man might have harassed some women, he didn’t harass all women.”
Continued Vester: “Many men who harass have been well-liked and respected inside the organization and publicly. They are, like all of us, multidimensional.”
Vester said she learned this from her experiences working for Roger Ailes — who was ousted in 2016 amid a sexual harassment scandal — at Fox News. “He treated me with the utmost fairness and respect, and I was under the impression that he behaved that way with all his staffers,” she wrote. “Years after I left television, the allegations against him came to light. Mainly because of my own experience with Brokaw, I did not think it was right for me to join the chorus of people who rushed to publicly defend Ailes.”
Vester said that despite not having any negative experiences with Ailes, she wanted to let the investigation take its course. “I was not going to doubt those who spoke up,” she wrote. “And I’m glad I didn’t.”
Continued Vester: “We owe it to the victims, the accused, and ourselves to make sure that lending support does not cross over into taking sides and intimidating other victims.”
Vester ended the essay reiterating that she’s not seeking a settlement, but she doesn’t plan to be silent.
“I want NBC to stop fighting #MeToo within its own walls. I ask NBCUniversal to retain an outside investigator to look into sexual harassment and any cover-up of sexual harassment at NBC News,” wrote Vester, adding that she “loved” working at NBC News and still believes in its important work.
“It truly can be a safe place for men and women to work together and mentor each other,” she wrote. “Conducting an independent investigation will not weaken NBC News — it will strengthen it. At a time when trust in the media is in serious trouble, newsrooms need more than ever to stand for truth and transparency.”
Vester’s column was published just hours after NBC released the results of an internal investigation conducted in the wake of Matt Lauer’s firing after he was found to have engaged in what the company termed “inappropriate sexual behavior” with a young female staffer. The probe turned up no evidence that leadership at NBC News, Today or human resources received complaints about Lauer’s behavior prior to Nov. 27, 2017.
The initial Washington Post report in which Vester’s allegations were made public also included claims from an anonymous production assistant who alleged harassment by Brokaw. Writer Mary Reinholz, in a report for another outlet released on May 1, alleged Brokaw “made a pass at me 50 years ago.”
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