Several female staffers at NBC News said they "felt forced" to sign a "women’s letter" defending veteran news anchor Tom Brokaw against sexual harassment allegations, according to a new report.
Linda Vester, a former NBC News anchor and colleague of Brokaw, told the Washington Post that Brokaw "made unwanted advances toward her on two occasions in the 1990s, including a forcible attempt to kiss her."
After the allegations against Brokaw were published last week, Brokaw denied them in a long letter pushing back against the details of the claim. After Brokaw denied the accusation, dozens of NBC women signed a letter defending the retired anchor.
While several prominent NBC women, including Rachel Maddow, Mika Brzezinski, Andrea Mitchell and Maria Shriver, passionately defended Brokaw, several lower level staffers said they felt pressured to sign the letter or face repercussions, according to Page Six.
One NBC News staffer said, "We felt forced to sign the letter supporting Brokaw. 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 insider said the powerful names on the letter could intimidate other victims. "When you have over 100 women like Andrea Mitchell signing a letter of support without knowing the facts, it’s pretty scary . . . The letter will have a chilling effect on other women coming forward."
An NBC News rep said, "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 . . . Management has played absolutely no role whatsoever."
"As professional women, we fully endorse the conversation around abuse of power in the workplace. In the context of that conversation, we would like to share our perspectives on working with Tom Brokaw," the letter reads.
"Tom has treated each of us with fairness and respect. He has given each of us opportunities for advancement and championed our successes throughout our careers. As we have advanced across industries — news, publishing, law, business and government — Tom has been a valued source of counsel and support. We know him to be a man of tremendous decency and integrity," the letter reads.
While defenders call the letter a "purely grass-roots effort," critics say it was led by Goldman Sachs executive Liz Bowyer, who is the producer of the "Tom Brokaw Reports" documentary series and has worked on two of Brokaw's books.