We’ve had to deal with a lot over the end of last week, the weekend, and yesterday. The past five days or so has been an incredibly long month’s worth of big news stories, one after the other.
Buried within all this though is a little-touched news story about one of America’s more well-known newspeople: Tom Brokaw.
Brokaw stands accused of sexual harassment by two women. The first is a former colleague named Linda Vester, who worked with Brokaw in the 90s. The second woman is a so-far-anonymous former female assistant.
Several women, including big names at NBC – Brokaw’s employer – have since come out to defend him, talking about what a stellar guy he is and just saying how this couldn’t possibly have been something he did because, I mean, look at him. He’s just great. Really.
NBC, in particular, is in a pretty vulnerable state right now. It’s been scandal-ridden a lot in recent years, and this is just another negative story for them. In particular, knowing about and covering up the kind of behavior Brokaw is accused of is pretty much their signature thing right now.
After all, NBC reportedly spiked a big story exposing Harvey Weinstein’s notorious behavior, allowed Matt Lauer’s similar behavior to run rampant for years, and even sat on the infamous Billy Bush-Donald Trump tape until it was opportune for them.
So, it is perhaps no surprise that, right now, NBC also stands accused of being rather pushy in getting 115 women to publicly comment in Brokaw’s favor.
One NBC News staffer said, “We felt forced to sign the letter supporting Brokaw. We had no choice, particularly the lower level staffers. The letter was being handed around the office and the unspoken threat was that if your name was not on it, there would be some repercussion down the road. Execs are watching to see who signed and who didn’t. This was all about coming out in force to protect NBC’s golden boy; the network’s reputation is tied to Brokaw . . . If more women come forward, that’s a big problem.”
Another insider said the powerful names on the letter could intimidate other victims. “When you have over 100 women like Andrea Mitchell signing a letter of support without knowing the facts, it’s pretty scary . . . The letter will have a chilling effect on other women coming forward.”
But, the question still comes down to this: In the current day and age, is Brokaw guilty until proven innocent? In the court of public opinion, we tend to act that way, and having two accusers instead of just one seemingly adds a little more authority to the accusations.
While I don’t know about Brokaw’s guilt, what I do know is that many people who have been big stars in the media for years feel they are invulnerable to the rules that we must abide by as a society. Matt Lauer and Harvey Weinstein got away with their misdeeds for years because they felt – and largely were treated as – untouchable. They had become, in a sense, false idols for the masses to worship. Lauer brought us news and Weinstein brought us entertainment.
If Brokaw also feels he could get away with this because of how much power his name brings, then it’s just another example of what happens when you raise these false idols to their stations. There are real victims here, and it is a travesty that this is occurring within our media, which often acts as though it were some sort of great moral beacon for our country.
While it is wholly un-American to assume someone’s guilty rather than assume their innocence until proven guilty, there is a definite pattern that stems from giving this much power to someone solely because of who they are. There is a trail of victims, and that cannot be ignored any longer.