NBC Women Say They Were Pressured To Sign 'Tom Brokaw Is Not A Sex Creep' Letter No One Is Buying Anyway
Last week, the Washington Post reported the claims of two women who say they were sexually harassed by veteran news anchor Tom Brokaw back in the '90s.
According to Linda Vester, a former NBC news host, Brokaw invited himself to her hotel room, suggested that the two start having “an affair of more than passing affection,” and attempted to forcibly kiss her. Another woman, speaking anonymously, said that Brokaw was inappropriate with her when she was a production assistant, pulling her hands towards his chest, asking her how her "job search" was going, and then suggesting that she come to his office later that night to discuss things.
Since then, Brokaw has adamantly denied the accusations and 115 women at NBC, including Andrea Mitchell, Rachel Maddow, Maria Shriver and Mika Brzezinski, have signed a letter saying that no way would Tom Brokaw have done this because he is a man of decency and integrity, yadda yadda yadda.
The Hollywood Reporter, which first got hold of the letter, reported:
[C]urrent and former colleagues of the NBC News special correspondent write that "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."
The signees, who write that collectively they have worked with Brokaw across four decades, add, "As we have advanced across industries — news, publishing, law, business, government — Tom has been a valued source of counsel and support. We know him to be a man of tremendous decency and integrity."
Despite its support for the accused journalist, the letter maintains that each of the signees "endorse the conversation around abuse of power in the workplace."
Mmmhmm. Is this a thing anyone actually buys? Really? At this point, is anyone going, "Oh, well, if all these women are signing a letter saying that Tom Brokaw didn't sexually harass them, it must not have happened?" Have we not been through this before?
While many of the more prominent signees likely signed the letter of their own accord, some lower-level staffers told Page Six that they felt pressured to sign the letter for fear of losing their jobs.
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.”
While NBC says that there was no such pressure, and that this was entirely a grass-roots effort among female colleagues who simply wanted to let the world know that Tom Brokaw would never do such a thing, it's hard to imagine that there wouldn't be -- even if it's unintended. At least for people a lot lower on the totem pole. I know I'd feel a little uncomfortable, at least.
One prominent female NBC anchor, however, has refused to sign it -- and that is Megyn Kelly. Kelly has warned her colleagues about signing the letter, because "you don't know what you don't know."
This means now I have to think a thing I never thought I'd think before, which is Hey, Rachel Maddow, maybe you should listen to Megyn Kelly about this because she is 100% right here and you are wrong. Kelly has, of course, been down this road before, when many of her colleagues at Fox were out there defending the honor of Roger Ailes.
Now, I have no idea if these allegations are true or not. They may not be. Vester's story seems credible to me, yet -- as I am not a psychic -- I couldn't tell you for sure. What I can tell you, however, is that there is not a man on earth I would sign a letter like that for, including my own father. Or Mr. Rogers. Because Megyn Kelly is right -- you don't know what you don't know, and it's not like all men who sexually harass women they work with sexually harass literally every woman they ever come across. This is something we should all be hep to by now.
It's especially galling to see women going "Oh, we absolutely support women who come forward about this kind of thing ... just not when it's about a guy we like because he would never." This doesn't mean that anyone needs to believe everything someone says, but there's a difference between reserving your judgment based on your knowledge of a person's character and going so far as to sign a letter like that, while going around asking other women who work underneath you to sign it as well.
Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Previously, she was a Senior Staff Writer at Death & Taxes, and Assistant Editor at The Frisky (RIP). Currently, she writes for Wonkette, Friendly Atheist, Quartz and other sites. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse