Friday night on Rachel Maddow’s MSNBC broadcast, the star anchor broke the news that, should any former staffers who believe they were sexually harassed contact NBCUniversal, the company will release those former employees from their confidentiality and non-disparagement arrangements.
“NBC Universal’s statement is not enough. The company should not make any former employee, specifically women, go begging on their hands and knees back to NBC to be released from an NDA. Women have already been through hell with this company,” Vester said in a statement issued to Variety via her foundation, the Silence Breakers Alliance, which she launched to promote workplace safety by financially supporting efforts to end harassment in the workplace.
The statement goes on to suggest a plan of action: “Instead, here’s what NBC should do: issue a blanket statement simply releasing from NDA’s all current and former NBC News/MSNBC employees who have information regarding sexual misconduct, retaliation, silencing or coverups. Because it’s not just the harassment, it’s everything management does to enable perpetrators and harm victims.”
Vester’s foundation has also made a pledge to help former staffers who may wish to reveal information from their time working at NBCUniversal.
“Silence Breakers Alliance pledges to help any current or former NBC/MSNBC employee come forward with information about wrongdoing there,” the statement reads. Taking aim at the president of NBC News, the statement ends with, “Despite what Noah Oppenheim claims, the company most definitely does have secrets and something to hide.”
NBCUniversal declined comment when contacted by Variety about the Silence Breakers Alliance’s response.
Also Saturday, the feminist advocacy organization UltraViolet reiterated its call for an independent “audit” of NBC News and other measures.
“NBC Universal’s announcement that they are willing to consider releasing employees from confidentiality and non-disparagement agreements, as it relates to workplace sexual abuse, is proof that the company is feeling the pressure to take action to address a culture of abuse,” UltraViolet co-founder Shaunna Thomas said in a statement. UltraViolet staged a small protest outside 30 Rock earlier this week.
Since Vester came forward with her accusations against Brokaw — which he has strongly denied — she has been a champion of safety in the workplace and putting an end to sexual harassment. On the one year anniversary of Lauer’s firing, Vester took out an ad in the New York Times, calling on Comcast’s board to end non-disclosure agreements and forced arbitration in sexual harassment cases. Just last week, Vester, along with female journalists including Megyn Kelly, Gretchen Carlson, Greta Van Susteren issued a statement, demanding that Comcast launch an external investigation of NBC News.
Maddow’s revelation from NBCUniversal signals that NBC News is continuing to grapple with Farrow’s reporting in his book “Catch and Kill” — and the heavy media attention that has come with it.
After a new rape allegation against former “Today” show host Matt Lauer described in the book leaked ahead of its release, Oppenheim sent a lengthy staff-wide memo to the company stating that despite Farrow’s allegations, the company has no secrets and nothing to hide. Despite the mounting pressure, NBCUniversal re-signed Oppenheim’s contract, meaning he is the likely successor to current NBC News chairman Andy Lack.
Comcast has stood behind NBC News over the past two years as the Me Too movement launched with NBC News at the center of many stories and allegations, and has continued to do so in recent weeks.
Last night, Maddow also questioned why her own company has failed to do anything but an internal investigation, and said she’s been trying to get answers from her parent company regarding Farrow’s allegations, ever since his book came out.
“There has been consternation, even inside this building, inside MSNBC and NBC News, that the matter was handled with an internal investigation — with the company, in effect, investigating itself, rather than hiring an external firm to do it,” Maddow said.