Linda Vester says she has no interest in speaking to NBCUniversal about her accusations against Tom Brokaw unless the company hires outside counsel to investigate its longtime anchor — apparently not thinking too much of the company’s NBC internal probe of Matt Lauer, results of which were released this week.
NBCU tells Deadline that it “has reached out to Ms. Vester via her attorney to discuss her allegations, and so far she has not accepted our offer.”
Vester has, however, given a detailed account of her claims to the Washington Post and Variety. And, Thursday morning, on ABC’s Good Morning America.
Vester says she is “not interested in a lawsuit” but intends to keep making her claims “because I want to try to help others” and “help continue this movement.”
In reports published late last month in WaPo and in our sister pub Variety, Vester claimed that Brokaw twice made unwanted sexual advances on her at NBC offices in Denver and New York in the 1990s. She claimed that the veteran newsman tried to kiss her in 1994 when he showed up uninvited at her room in Manhattan’s Essex House Hotel. In 1995, she claims, he again showed up unannounced to her apartment in London, to pressure her into having a sexual relationship.
In a letter to colleagues, NBC News veteran Brokaw said he was “ambushed and then perp walked across the pages of The Washington Post and Variety as an avatar of male misogyny, taken to the guillotine and stripped of any honor and achievement I had earned in more than a half century of journalism and citizenship.” Brokaw accused Washington Post and Variety of enabling her “drive by shooting” and said Vester’s intent is to strip him “of any honor and achievement I had earned in more than a half century of journalism and citizenship.”
This morning, Vester told George Stephanopoulos on GMA, “I expected a denial; that is what harassers generally do.
“What I didn’t expect was such a personal attack,” Vester said, surprisingly. She insists it’s his response to her claims that has “set the tone for the conversation that’s not really helpful.”
Vester is concerned, she says, that the message Brokaw’s statement sends to women inside NBC News leaves them wondering “about whether or not they are safe to report somebody who is powerful – if they get that kind of backlash.”
In his response to her claims, Brokaw also called her someone “with a reputation as a colleague who had trouble with the truth” who is setting herself up as “the keeper of the flame of journalistic integrity.”
Her memory of those incidents is very clear, she has repeatedly insisted; this morning she told Stephanopoulos “the notes that I took immediately afterward, are crystal clear,” introducing the notes-were-taken motif.
When asked why she did not go to management, Vester said HR was not, back then, considered a place where a young woman just getting started in her career went to make a sexual harassment complaints about the most powerful man at the network. “It was considered a place where you went if your paycheck went to the wrong address.”
NBC, she confirmed, has indeed called her attorney to say they would like to talk to her. “Our answer is, as soon as NBC News, or NBCU hires outside counsel to do a proper, thorough investigation, I will be glad to sit down.”
“You can’t investigate yourself,” she told the face of NBC News’ chief competitor. “You can’t. There is an internal bias. You have to have outside counsel.”
The letter in support of Brokaw signed by about 100 current and former NBC News staffers, including some of the most prominent women at the network – Rachel Maddow, Mika Brzezinski, Andrea Mitchell, etc. – “could be viewed by many as intimidation, as pressure not to report any misconduct,” Vester said. She called on those women to call on NBCU to hire outside counsel “to really get to the bottom of this longstanding, widespread problem of sexual misconduct by multiple men at the top of power in the power structure of NBC.”
Stephanopoulos asked how she squared her description of Brokaw with his image of Brokaw as a man whose career he long admired.
“Some people might be tempted to believe all harassers look and act like Harvey Weinstein,” Vester shot back. “Some of them can look like cultural icons, like Tom Brokaw.”