Tom Brokaw says he did not intend for this “rough draft” of a letter to be widely read.
But it was published on Friday — an extraordinary defense of his character and a repudiation of the sexual harassment allegations made by former NBC colleague Linda Vester. He describes Vester’s statements to the press as a “drive by shooting.”
Brokaw, the former anchor of “NBC Nightly News,” is one of the country’s best-known journalists. He is currently a special correspondent for NBC News. He feels his reputation is being besmirched. And he believes he is the real victim.
In the letter, which was sent to several colleagues, Brokaw said Vester is a “character assassin” with a “grudge against NBC News.”
“She has unleashed a torrent of unsubstantiated criticism and attacks on me more than twenty years after I opened the door for her and a new job at Fox News,” Brokaw said in the letter, a copy of which was obtained by CNNMoney.
Vester was a young reporter at NBC when, she alleges, Brokaw harassed her in the early 1990s.
“I was groped and assaulted by Tom Brokaw, then the anchor of ‘NBC Nightly News,'” Vester said in a video interview with Variety.
Both Variety and The Washington Post interviewed Vester for stories that were published on Thursday.
The Post story was part of a broader examination of sexual harassment issues within NBC News.
Vester told The Post that she came forward because “NBC has failed to hire outside counsel to investigate a genuine, long-standing problem of sexual misconduct in the news division.”
Vester’s attorney on Friday reiterated this point in a statement written in response to Brokaw’s letter, saying her client “observed that the company’s response does not appear to be aimed at producing a safer and more equitable workplace for women.”
NBC News chair Andy Lack told staffers in a note that “we take allegations such as these very seriously, and act on them quickly and decisively when the facts dictate.”
After Today show host Matt Lauer was fired last year, Lack said at the time that an internal review was underway to determine “what happened and what we can do to build a culture of greater transparency, openness and respect for each other.”
Lack said in his memo on Friday that the “review is nearing its conclusion.”
Vester was a correspondent and anchor at NBC until 1999, when she moved to Fox News. She left Fox and the TV business in the mid-2000s.
Brokaw’s Friday letter asserted that he played a key role in introducing Vester to Fox News boss Roger Ailes, who later hired her.
“When he got in trouble on sexual matters, not a peep from this woman,” Brokaw wrote. Ailes, who passed away last year, left Fox News in 2016 amid sexual harassment allegations that he repeatedly denied.
Throughout the letter, Brokaw depicted Vester as a disgruntled ex-employee who left NBC “angry that she had failed in her pursuit of stardom.”
“It is 4:00 am on the first day of my new life as an accused predator in the universe of American journalism,” he wrote in the opening paragraph. “I was ambushed and then perp walked across the pages of The Washington Post and Variety as an avatar of male misogyny, taken to the guillotine and stripped of any honor and achievement I had earned in more than a half century of journalism and citizenship.”
The controversy has prompted Brokaw to withdraw his name on Friday as the commencement speaker at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Connecticut.
After the letter was published by The Hollywood Reporter and quoted by other outlets, Brokaw told CNNMoney that it was “a rough draft” and “I did not intend for it to be published in that form.”
He said he had finished the final version “just in time to hear the draft was unleashed.”
He did not immediately respond to a request for further comment.
In the letter, Brokaw said “I am not a perfect person. I’ve made mistakes, personally and professionally.”
But he said he “did not verbally and physically attack her” as described in the interviews.
Brokaw said, “I deeply resent the pain and anger she inflicted on my wife, daughters and granddaughters,” adding, “I am proud of who I am as a husband, father, grandfather, journalist and citizen. Vester, the Washington Post and Variety cannot diminish that. But in this one woman piece of sensational claims they are trying.”