I’m torn on what to believe, for no better reason than my silly intuition that Brokaw isn’t “that type.” But what type is “that type”? I wouldn’t have guessed Charlie Rose was sleazing on his co-workers either. And my only knowledge of Brokaw is based on his public persona, which means next to nothing. Famous, media-savvy people are good at presenting the image of themselves that they want the public to see, by definition. Sometimes that image is a front. Right, Dr. Huxtable?
One difference between Brokaw and most of the #MeToo murderers’ row, though, is the indignation with which he’s defending himself. This statement is a denial at the top of his lungs, which makes it noteworthy no matter if it’s true or false. If it’s true and Linda Vester’s accusations fall apart upon further scrutiny, it’s a poignant example of a falsely accused man doing what little he can to preserve a legacy it took his entire life to build as it turns to ash in a moment in front of him. He’s already backed out of a commencement speech he was supposed to give.
If it’s false, it’s sociopathic. To lie this vehemently when you know you’re guilty would be almost as creepy as the behavior of which he’s accused.
It is 4:00 am on the first day of my new life as an accused predator in the universe of American journalism. 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…
I am not a perfect person. I’ve made mistakes, personally and professionally. But as I write this at dawn on the morning after a drive by shooting by Vester, the Washington Post and Variety, I am stunned by the free ride given a woman with a grudge against NBC News, no distinctive credentials or issue passions while at FOX.
As a private citizen who married a wealthy man she has been active in social causes but she came to Me:Too late, portraying herself as a den mother. In the intervening years since we met on those two occasions, she had no reason to worry I could affect her career.
Some of her relatives by marriage are very close friends. She couldn’t pick up the phone and say, “I’d like to talk. I have issues from those two meetings 20 years ago?” Instead she became a character assassin. Strip away all of the hyperbole and what has she achieved? What was her goal? Hard to believe it wasn’t much more Look At Me than Me:Too.
He goes on for 17 paragraphs, insisting that there was no funny business in the meetings with Vester years ago that she described to WaPo and Variety and claiming that he even referred her to Roger Ailes for a job at Fox News. (How come she never spoke up about Ailes’s behavior, he wonders sourly?) With one exception, I can’t remember a more strenuous defense by a man snared in the #MeToo uproar. That exception was Big Harv’s immortal vow to take his degenerate rage out on the NRA after the NYT and the New Yorker blew him up, and even that wasn’t really a defense, strictly speaking. Weinstein admitted he had behavior problems in that same statement.
So the jury’s out on Brokaw. But riddle me this: What’s Vester’s alleged motive in dredging this up so many years later? The best Brokaw can do to explain it is to hypothesize a long-simmering grudge against NBC because her career there didn’t work out, but that makes no sense. She worked successfully for Fox News for years after that, then left in 2005 to raise her children. She’s very wealthy so a shakedown seems unlikely, and in any case there’s no evidence of one. The idea that she’s been stewing for two decades over being let go by NBC given all of the good things that have happened to her in the intervening years seems implausible in the extreme. If she’s lying for revenge on NBC, why wouldn’t she have smeared Brokaw 10 years ago for maximum damage, when his public profile was higher?
A few other points, just to rehash Ed’s post from this morning:
1. Vester isn’t his only accuser. A second woman who hasn’t been named publicly also told WaPo that Brokaw “acted inappropriately” towards her when she was a production assistant at NBC in the 1990s. That’s the vaguest possible allegation, granted, but Vester isn’t out on the limb by herself.
2. Shannon Bream said on air last night that she’s heard things about Brokaw, which took me aback. Bream’s always seemed like a smart and responsible reporter; if she’s passing along a rumor like that to Fox’s millions of viewers, she must have solid reasons to find it credible. If not, that’s a terrible injustice to Brokaw. Bream doesn’t strike me as someone who’d do something like that lightly, but I know, I know — public personas can be deceiving.
3. Two of Vester’s friends told Variety that she told them about her encounters with Brokaw shortly after they happened, many years ago. Are they also lying to facilitate a smear? Brokaw can’t compute why Vester would have been friendly-ish to him after these supposedly troubling incidents but that’s one of the core takeaways from the Pervnado: People go out of their way to avoid angering the 400-pound gorillas in their industries because of the professional repercussions that might follow. Weinstein has more than a hundred accusers and got away with it for 30 years because he was a titan of his trade. If you’re trying to build a career in the news business, you think carefully about making an enemy of the anchor of the NBC Nightly News.
Anyway. In the end, this is a numbers game. If no one else comes forward to accuse Brokaw and the second woman mentioned in the WaPo piece doesn’t go on the record, most of the public will conclude that he’s innocent (or close enough to innocent that whatever happened between him and Vester can be dismissed as an Aziz Ansari-esque “miscommunication”). If there’s a dam break and six more women speak up next week, his career at NBC is over. Simple as that.