‘It was physically unpleasant and humiliating’: Tom Brokaw accused of sexual harassment

Video still of Tom Brokaw leading NBC reporter Craig Melvin through the Special Collection at the UI Main Library on the Today Show. Feb. 1, 2018.

A former NBC news correspondent has accused Tom Brokaw of sexual harassment, Variety reported on Thursday. Linda Vester told the magazine Brokaw, a University of Iowa alum who anchored the NBC Nightly News for 22 years, made unwanted sexual advances that included physical contact on two occasions in 1990s. On Thursday night, The Washington Post also independently reported on Vester’s story.

Brokaw has issued a statement denying he behaved inappropriately towards Vester.

“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,” according to Variety. “It was physically unpleasant and humiliating,” Vester told the publication.

She said she didn’t report Brokaw at the time, because she was worried doing so would end her career. Vester was 28 years old at the time of the incidents, and Brokaw was then one of the best known and highest paid TV news personalities in the U.S.

Vester explained she was speaking out now because her story sheds light on “the culture at NBC News, where she believes male bosses treated their female colleagues as objects.” She told Variety she felt NBC had not sufficiently addressed its problems with its workplace culture as the network pledged to do following the firing in November of Matt Lauer for improper conduct and sexual harassment. Vester left NBC in 1999 to host a show on Fox News.

Although Vester did not officially report Brokaw’s behavior at the time, she did tell two friends about it, both of whom confirmed her story for Variety. She also showed the magazine contemporary entries from her personal journals that describe the incidents.

Through an NBC spokesperson, Brokaw issued the same statement to both Variety and the Post: “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.”

The Post also reported another woman, who spoke to the paper on the condition of anonymity, claimed “Brokaw acted inappropriately toward her in the ’90s, when she was a young production assistant and he was an anchor. [Brokaw] said no such incident happened.”

On Feb. 1, the UI Main Library opened an archive of personal papers from Brokaw’s long career in TV news, which the former anchor donated to the university in 2016. The opening of the archive happened one day after UI announced it was removing the name of another donor, casino mogul Steve Wynn, from the Carver College of Medicine’s Institute of Vision Research following accusations of sexual misconduct against Wynn.

Brokaw, a South Dakota native, has maintained a close relationship with UI for decades, despite the fact he actually graduated from the University of South Dakota. He received the UI Distinguished Alumni Award in 1996 and an honorary degree in 2010.

Brokaw only attended UI for a single year, 1958-59, before dropping out. During a segment on NBC’s Today Show about Brokaw’s donation of his papers to UI, Brokaw described his time at the university by saying: “I spent one year there and I had a double major: beer and coeds.”

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