NBC has offered to look into sexual harassment and assault allegations against Tom Brokaw by former NBC correspondent Linda Vester. But Vester has declined the request at this point, because the network wouldn’t bring in outside counsel to run the investigation.
“We will not be participating in any investigation by NBC of NBC,” Ari Wilkenfeld, Vester’s attorney, told Variety. He added that he informed the news organization that his client would be “more than willing” to participate if there was an investigation commissioned by outside counsel.
Wilkenfeld says he has not heard back yet from NBC about his request.
“NBCUniversal has reached out to Ms. Vester via her attorney to discuss her allegations, and so far she has not accepted our offer,” a spokesperson for NBCUniversal said in a statement to Variety.
After “Today” anchor Matt Lauer was fired last November over a series of sexual misconduct allegations, NBC News chairman Andy Lack vowed to review the Lauer situation, but ever since the results of that report were made public Wednesday, the news division has faced criticism for using NBCUniversal general counsel instead of an outside team.
“This so-called ‘investigation’ is a joke and Comcast needs to clean house at the highest ranks of NBC if it wants to create a safe workplace,” said Karin Roland, chief campaigns officer of women’s advocacy group UltraViolet about the Lauer report.
According to NBC’s findings, no managers were responsible for any wrongdoing in the Lauer case. Those findings don’t necessarily fit with the narrative of the story that has unfolded in the press. In an interview with the Washington Post in April, former “Today” co-anchor Ann Curry said that she voiced concerns in 2012 about Lauer’s conduct toward women to an unnamed manager at NBC. It’s not clear if that manager was part of the internal probe, but Curry told the New York Times in a statement, “I have not participated in any formal investigation by NBC on sexual harassment.”
“NBCUniversal’s investigation was thorough, objective and conducted at the corporate level, outside the News division,” an NBCUniversal spokesperson told Variety. “Kim Harris, the company’s General Counsel, led this process with a team of legal and HR professionals who are independent of News. In addition, we consulted with two prominent outside law firms – Proskauer Rose and Davis Polk – both of whom validated the investigation’s methodology, findings, conclusions and recommended next steps.”
NBC running its own investigation in the Lauer case raises questions about a network’s ability to investigate itself. Even before the Lauer findings were made public, Wilkenfeld blasted the network for failing to run an independent investigation, saying, “One important reason companies hire outside investigators is to send a strong signal to their own employees that the company wants to get to the root of what happened and is prepared to accept responsibility. Sadly, it seems that NBC has chosen to go in a very different direction.”
Thursday morning, appearing on “Good Morning America,” Vester was asked by George Stephanopoulos, “You don’t trust them to investigate this themselves?” to which she responded, “Well, I think it’s common sense — you can’t investigate yourself. You just can’t. There’s an internal bias. That’s how it works.”
Vester, a former NBC war correspondent, accused Brokaw of sexually harassing and assaulting her in the 1990s, claiming the anchorman groped her in a conference room, forcibly tried to kiss her on two different occasions, and showed up uninvited at her hotel room during a business trip. Brokaw has strongly denied these claims.
NBC knew about Vester’s allegations for several weeks prior to her story being published in Variety and the Washington Post. But Wilkenfeld says nobody from the news division contacted Vester until after her story became public.