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Tom Brokaw draws support in fight against misconduct allegations

A group of 65 women in media signed a letter supporting Tom Brokaw, saying that ‘‘we know him to be a man of tremendous decency and integrity.’’
A group of 65 women in media signed a letter supporting Tom Brokaw, saying that ‘‘we know him to be a man of tremendous decency and integrity.’’Matt Rourke/Associated Press/File 2014

NEW YORK — A group of 65 women in the media — including Maria Shriver, Rachel Maddow, Andrea Mitchell, and Kelly O’Donnell — signed a letter supporting Tom Brokaw, saying that ‘‘we know him to be a man of tremendous decency and integrity.’’

The letter comes after The Washington Post and Variety reported charges of sexual misconduct by the longtime NBC news anchor.

Linda Vester, a former NBC News and Fox News Channel correspondent, said Brokaw went to her New York hotel room once in the mid-1990s, proposed an affair and tried to forcibly kiss her. She said he tried to kiss her one other time at her apartment in London and once grabbed her from behind and tickled her on her waist.

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She told Variety that despite not being at fault, she ‘‘suffered years of humiliation and isolation’’ from the incidents.

Brokaw strongly denied the charges and told friends in a late-night e-mail Saturday that he felt ‘‘ambushed and then perp walked’’ in the media as a symbol of male misogyny and stripped of his honor.

The 78-year-old broadcast journalist wrote an emotional response to accusations that he had made unwanted advances on Vester, writing that ‘‘it is 4 a.m. on the first day of my new life as an accused predator in the universe of American journalism.’’

The letter was first reported in the Hollywood Reporter.

Brokaw has withdrawn as a commencement speaker at Connecticut’s Sacred Heart University next month, saying his appearance would be a distraction.

Brokaw said he never sought an affair, and that Vester had approached him for advice. He said that he ‘‘may have leaned over for a perfunctory good night kiss’’ on the cheek in London.

As for the hotel room visit, Brokaw said ‘‘I should not have gone but I emphatically did not verbally and physically attack her and suggest an affair in language right out of pulp fiction.’’

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‘‘I am angry, hurt, and unmoored from what I thought would be the final passage of my life and career, a mix of written and broadcast journalism, philanthropy, and participation in environmental and social causes that have always given extra meaning to my life,’’ he wrote.

‘‘Instead I am facing a long list of grievances from a former colleague who left NBC News angry that she had failed in her pursuit of stardom,’’ he wrote. ‘‘She has unleashed a torrent of unsubstantiated criticism and attacks on me more than 20 years after I opened the door for her and a new job at Fox News.’’

Brokaw, who described the stories about him as a ‘‘drive-by shooting,’’ said that he had called the late Fox News CEO Roger Ailes on her behalf and that Vester got a job there.

‘‘She couldn’t pick up the phone and say, ‘I’d like to talk. I have issues from those two meetings 20 years ago?’ ‘’ Brokaw wrote. ‘‘Instead she became a character assassin. Strip away all the hyperbole and what has she achieved? What was her goal? Hard to believe it wasn’t much more Look at Me than MeToo.’’

In response, Vester’s lawyer, Ari Wilkenfeld, said she stands by her allegations, ‘‘which speak for themselves.’’

NBC had no comment on Brokaw’s letter.

Comedian Bill Cosby was convicted of sex-assault charges last week in the first big celebrity trial since the #MeToo movement exploded and gave abused women a collective voice. Sexual-misconduct allegations shared on social media have toppled countless influential men in entertainment, politics, the media, and other fields.

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Vester has said she came forward in part because of NBC’s failure to hire outside investigators to look into the company’s workplace issues. Following the firing of ‘‘Today’’ show host Matt Lauer in November for an inappropriate relationship, parent company NBC Universal directed its in-house counsel, Kimberley Harris, to investigate.

In a letter to staff on Friday, NBC News Chairman Andy Lack said hundreds of people have been interviewed for Harris’ assessment. He said that more than 1,600 NBC News employees have received mandatory workplace training, and there’s still more to be done.

The Post reported that it had talked to 12 current or former NBC staffers who said they were sexually harassed at the network but did not report it to anyone. Former ‘‘Today’’ anchor Ann Curry told the newspaper that she complained to NBC management on behalf of a woman who alleged improper behavior by Lauer.