A week after bombshell allegations of sexual harassment against Tom Brokaw, a new bombshell allegation has been levied against his employer.
Former NBC anchor and reporter Linda Vester accused Brokaw last week of groping her and trying to forcibly kiss her during the 1990s. Another unidentified woman has also accused Brokaw of inappropriate behavior when she worked at NBC. Brokaw denied the allegations.
Since then, Mary Reinholz, a former reporter for the Los Angeles Free Press, has accused Brokaw of french kissing her at her home in the late 1970s when Brokaw was an anchor at KNBC-TV in Los Angeles.
Shortly after Vester’s allegations went public, more than 100 current and former female employees at NBC signed a letter praising Brokaw, calling him “a man of tremendous decency and integrity” and who always treated the women “with fairness and respect.”
Among the women who signed the letter were high-profile figures at NBC News, such as Andrea Mitchell, Mika Brzezinski and Rachel Maddow.
But a Page Six report Monday claims a number of female employees at NBC News felt pressured into signing the letter defending Brokaw.
“We felt forced to sign the letter supporting Brokaw,” one unidentified staffer told Page Six. “We had no choice, particularly the lower level staffers. The letter was being handed around the office and the unspoken threat was that if your name was not on it, there would be some repercussion down the road. Execs are watching to see who signed and who didn’t. This was all about coming out in force to protect NBC’s golden boy; the network’s reputation is tied to Brokaw . . . If more women come forward, that’s a big problem.”
Another staffer claimed having some of the network’s biggest female personalities sign the letter made it even more intimidating for lower-level employees.
“When you have over 100 women like Andrea Mitchell signing a letter of support without knowing the facts, it’s pretty scary,” the woman said. “The letter will have a chilling effect on other women coming forward.”
The network has said it played no role in organizing the letter by the women who defended Brokaw.
“The letter is a purely grass-roots effort, led by women outside of the company who are motivated by their own support for Tom Brokaw,” a network spokesperson said. “Management has played absolutely no role whatsoever.”
Page Six reports the letter was actually spearheaded by Liz Bowyer, who works as a producer on documentaries Brokaw does for the network. She has also worked on two of his books.
Misty Marris, legal analyst for LawAndCrime.com, said NBC is opening itself up to legal ramifications if reports of employees feeling pressured to sign the letter defending Brokaw end up being true.
“The standard is that anything that has a chilling effect on someone reporting harassment is deemed retaliatory. So to the extent that these women felt intimidated, NBC absolutely has a problem,” Marris said, adding that this all depends on the truth of the original allegations. “In a court, each of those women making that claim would be deposed. If the answer is that the women signing the letter just happen to support Brokaw, then case closed. If the letter signing is driven by fear and intimidation: big problem.”
Meanwhile, Variety published an exclusive story Tuesday claiming NBC News staffers received a memo from the network’s standards and practices division on how to handle reporting on the allegations against Brokaw, including instructions to “Include relevant portions of Brokaw’s denial, his email and the email in support of him, signed by more than 60 colleagues.”
And current NBC host Megyn Kelly said on her show Monday that employees who signed the letter defending Brokaw should be aware that they “don’t know what they don’t know.”
Kelly said she did not sign the letter, even though she’s never had a bad experience with Brokaw.
“It’s basically a character reference,” Kelly said. “And they’re saying, ‘For what it’s worth, my experience with him has always been honorable, and he’s always treated me well.’ And I understand that. Because when you love the person being under attack, you want to say, ‘This has been my experience.’”
Kelly made reference to her time at Fox News when CEO Roger Ailes was accused by a former anchor of sexual harassment. Kelly later admitted that she was also harassed by Ailes.
“I will say, that the same thing did happen at Fox. And the truth is, you don’t know what you don’t know. And that’s not in any way to impugn Tom, who I love, and who’s been so good to me. Just saying, you don’t know what you don’t know.”
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