Rachel Maddow, Maria Shriver, other women sign letter supporting Tom Brokaw

NEW YORK — A group of 65 women in the television industry have circulated a letter in support of NBC’s Tom Brokaw after he was accused by a former colleague of unwanted sexual advances. The women said he has treated all of them with fairness and respect, giving them opportunities for advancement and championing successes in their careers.

Maria Shriver, Rachel Maddow, Andrea Mitchell, Kelly O’Donnell, Anne Thompson and Kristen Welker were among the women who put their names to the letter. They wrote that they know Brokaw “to be a man of tremendous decency and integrity.” 

The letter was circulated after former NBC News correspondent Linda Vester said she was “groped and assaulted by Tom Brokaw.” In interviews with Variety magazine and The Washington Post, Vester described two “unwanted advances” from Tom Brokaw in the mid 1990s, including one in which she says he invited himself into her hotel room.  

“He leans over with his index finger and puts it on my mouth to silence me and says, ‘This is our compact,'” Vester said. “And at that point, he took the same hand, reached behind my head and tried to force me to kiss him.”  

Brokaw has pushed back against the sexual misconduct allegations. In a note to colleagues on Friday, he compared the accusations to a “drive by shooting.”

Several news organizations on Friday published a letter from Brokaw to colleagues. In it, he said, “I was ambushed and then perp walked across the pages of The Washington Post and Variety … taken to the guillotine and stripped of any honor and achievement I had earned in more than a half century of journalism and citizenship.”

Brokaw said Vester invited him to her New York hotel room. 

“I should not have gone but I emphatically did not verbally and physically attack her,” Brokaw said. 

“Back then had she reported something like this, I don’t think anyone would’ve blinked,” said Sarah Ellison of The Washington Post. “I think it’s a different time.” 

But Ellison said a second unnamed NBC employee described another incident around the same time. She told the Post Brokaw put her hands against his chest, pulled her closer and then invited her to later come to his office. Brokaw told the Post “no such incident happened.” The Post said neither woman reported their allegations to NBC at the time. 
The new sexual harassment complaints are the latest against high-profile media figures, including former “CBS This Morning” co-host Charlie Rose, fired by CBS in November.

“People are afraid to report on people in power,” Ellison said. “They’re afraid they won’t be believed and they’re afraid that there will be some kind of retaliation.”

The Washington Post also revealed new allegations against former NBC “Today” show host Matt Lauer. Lauer admitted acting inappropriately but said he was not coercive, aggressive or abusive.” He could not be reached for comment on Friday.

In a note to staff on Friday, NBC chairman Andy Lack said NBC takes allegations like those against Brokaw very seriously, and said findings from the network’s internal review into Lauer’s actions may come out as soon as next week. CBS News was unable to reach NBC for comment.

© 2018 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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