Rachel Maddow, Maria Shriver, and Andrea Mitchell, among many others, have signed a letter supporting embattled NBC anchor Tom Brokaw. The letter, obtained by Deadline, was also signed by dozens of other women who work for or were formerly employed by NBC, in capacities ranging from editors to executives, and technicians. Morning Joe co-host Mika Brzezinski also stated her support, writing “Add me to the list” in a Twitter post. We admit that we were not expecting this from some of the most visible, respected women in journalism — it undercuts the goals of the #MeToo movement in a very real way.
The letter reads, in part: “Tom has treated each of us with fairness and respect. He has given each of us opportunities for advancement and championed our successes throughout our careers.” It emphasizes that they believe his character to be morally credible and professional in the workplace. “Tom has been a valued source of counsel and support. We know him to be a man of tremendous decency and integrity.”
The letter stakes out a tenuous position for Maddow, Shriver, Mitchell, and Brezezinski. All four are highly visible presences on NBC and MSNBC. They are risking their credibility by supporting an alleged abuser. When Lena Dunham and Jenni Koner supported Girls writer Murray Miller after actress Aurora Perrineau accused him of rape, the two were later forced to apologize for the statement. The lessons of the #MeToo movement should be unassailable by now: that our first instinct should be to trust and support women. Unfortunately, this letter does the exact opposite. It discourages victims from speaking out and shows them that their experience will be undermined by louder voices. And, most importantly, it keeps alleged abusers in power — where they may continue to target others.
Brokaw is accused of sexual harassment by two women: Linda Vester, a former NBC correspondent, and an anonymous woman. Both reported incidents that occured in the mid-1990s; Vester alleges that he made sexual advances towards her in a hotel room, the other claims that he groped her in the studio. Brokaw has denied the allegations but does not disputing that the meetings in question with Vester took place. He described Vester and being “coy” and called her a “character assassin.” Refinery29 has reached out to NBC for comment.
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