While our collective attention is still, for God-knows-what reason, on the White House Correspondents’ Dinner and Michelle Wolf’s scathing takedown of some of President Trump’s top women officials, another story is slipping under the radar: allegations of sexual harassment against one of America’s most powerful and respected television anchors, Tom Brokaw.
A former colleague, Linda Vester, has claimed Brokaw “groped and assaulted” her in the ’90s. An unnamed former assistant has also alleged Brokaw made unwanted advances. Vester has provided journals to Variety that she says back up her account.
Brokaw indignantly denied the claims, and dismissed Vester as merely “a former colleague who left NBC News angry that she had failed in her pursuit of stardom.”
“I made no romantic overtures towards her at that time or any other,” he wrote.
But in that same statement, he goes on to contradict himself:
“As I remember, she was at one end of a sofa, I was at the other. It was late and I had been up for 24 hours. As I got up to leave I may have leaned over for a perfunctory goodnight kiss, but my memory is that it happened at the door — on the cheek.”
Against the backdrop of our national education on sexual harassment, this admission should have been reason enough to approach this story with seriousness and concern. Instead, his colleagues — his female colleagues, mind you — have rushed to his defense.
Despite their presumed respect for Brokaw, few of his current NBC colleagues were even at the network 25 years ago when the behavior was alleged to have occurred.
And yet, that hasn’t stopped 115 of them, including big names like Rachel Maddow, Andrea Mitchell and Maria Shriver, from signing a letter attesting to Brokaw’s “tremendous decency and integrity.”
One notable absence? Megyn Kelly, who cautioned on her NBC morning show earlier this week: “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.”
Greta Van Susteren and Geraldo Rivera, two Fox News anchors, learned this the hard way. When Gretchen Carlson alleged harassment against Fox News head Roger Ailes, both were quick to defend him.
Van Susteren didn’t even work in the New York headquarters where much of Ailes’ harassment took place. Both she and Rivera eventually walked back their defenses.
Since the Brokaw letter was written, a third allegation has emerged, by a former reporter, Mary Reinholz, who claims that in the late ’60s, Brokaw abruptly embraced and kissed her while in her mother’s cottage.
Now, it turns out some female staffers at NBC News are complaining that they felt pressure to sign the Brokaw letter. One anonymously told the New York Post, “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.”
The lesson here is, as much as you think you may know someone, you never really know them fully. And unless you were there, you don’t actually know anything about a specific incident or incidents.
Banding together to sign a letter defending a top veteran newsman is exactly the kind of thing that creates a culture of intimidation. Who would feel comfortable coming forward about sexual harassment allegations now?
Rushing to the defense of an accused sexual harasser is just as bad as rushing to condemn one.
S.E. Cupp is the host of “S.E. Cupp Unfiltered” on HLN.
(c) 2018 S.E. Cupp Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC
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