Linda Vester had a reputation for covering tough stories. As a war correspondent for NBC News in the ’90s, she spent three tours of duty in the Middle East and took two assignments in Africa.
But as it turned out, her biggest battle at work wasn’t in the field. She says it was as a victim of sexual harassment by Tom Brokaw, the legendary newsman who manned the anchor desk for “NBC Nightly News” for 22 years and hosted “Today” and “Meet the Press.”
In a series of interviews with Variety conducted over several months, Vester alleged that Brokaw physically tried to force her to kiss him on two separate occasions, groped her in a NBC conference room and showed up at her hotel room uninvited. Two friends who Vester told at the time corroborated her story with Variety, and she shared her journal entries from the time period. Brokaw, who has been married to Meredith Auld since 1962, has never before been publicly accused of sexual harassment.
In a statement from him supplied by a NBC News spokesman, Brokaw said of the 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. 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 incident, says she didn’t report Brokaw’s conduct to the police or NBC human resources because she was scared it would end her career. She left NBC in 1999 and went on to anchor her own show on Fox News through 2006.
She’s speaking out now, because she believes her story sheds light on the culture at NBC News, where she believes male bosses treated their female colleagues as objects. After “Today” co-host Matt Lauer was fired for inappropriate conduct involving an NBC employee last November, NBC launched an internal review of its practices but didn’t bring in an outside firm to investigate — a step Vester believes is necessary to fix NBC’s culture.
“What Linda is doing, like others before her have done, is to give her truthful account in the hope that other women will not have to endure what she did,” says Ari Wilkenfeld, her attorney, who also represented one of the victims of Lauer’s sexual harassment. “Linda is literally seeking nothing for herself. She comes forward at her own expense and at her own peril. By her being willing to go on the record, perhaps this will embolden other brave women to tell their stories.”
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