Longtime NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw withdrew from a May commencement speech at Sacred Heart University, according to Reuters, after a woman reported to two news outlets that Brokaw acted inappropriately toward her.
Sacred Heart president John Petillo said in a statement that Brokaw told the university of his decision to withdraw on Friday. “Given events in the news, Mr. Brokaw did not want to distract from the intended and most important focus of the day -- our graduating students and their families."
Linda Vester, a former correspondent for NBC News, told The Washington Post and Variety that Brokaw had acted inappropriately toward her on two occasions in the mid-1990s, including touching and trying to kiss her without consent.
Brokaw has denied the allegations, saying in a statement released to Reuters that he met with Vester twice to offer career advice. “I met with Linda Vester on two occasions, but at her request, 23 years ago because she wanted advice with respect to her career at NBC. The meetings were brief, cordial and appropriate, and despite Linda’s allegations, I made no romantic overtures towards her at that time or any other,” Brokaw said.
Many of Brokaw’s colleagues have come out in support of the veteran anchor. Rachel Maddow, Andrea Mitchell and Maria Shriver are among more than 60 of Brokaw's current and former colleagues who signed a letter backing the anchor, calling him “a man of tremendous decency and integrity," according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Vester’s attorney Ari Wilkenfield told Reuters, “My client stands by the allegations, which speak for themselves.”
Andy Lack, NBC News chairman, told staff in a letter Friday that the network is undertaking a review with legal and human resource leaders. The review is nearly finished, Lack said, adding that NBC might be ready to release findings next week. NBC has also conducted an assessment of the its culture with hundreds of employees, and is currently running mandatory training sessions for staff. "We take allegations such as these very seriously, and act on them quickly and decisively when the facts dictate."