Sexual harassment often goes unchecked in workplaces with rigidly hierarchical cultures in which subordinates feel they have no choice but to put up with a superior’s inappropriate conduct. That same culture can make witnesses reluctant to speak up — or even to feel pressured to actively supporting the accused. These are signs of a hostile work environment.
Recently, newscaster Tom Brokaw was accused of sexual harassment by two women. One remains unidentified. The other was once a war correspondent for Brokaw’s network, NBC.
According to the former war correspondent, the inappropriate sexual conduct occurred in the 1990s at NBC offices in Denver and New York. She has shown reporters journals from the period to back up her claim, which Brokaw vehemently denies.
“We were in the Denver bureau, and there was a conference room. I’m standing there, and Tom Brokaw enters through the door and grabs me from behind and proceeds to tickle me up and down my waist,” she told a reporter of the Denver incident.
Others in the room apparently pretended not to notice. She notes that Brokaw was the most powerful man at NBC, while she was the most junior employee.
Brokaw next grabbed her behind her neck and tried to force her to kiss him, seemingly using all his strength. He only stopped when she made clear she wanted him to stop.
The unidentified woman has made similar claims.
After the allegations were recently made public, a former producer for Brokaw released a joint letter of support with other women who had worked with Brokaw. The letter, which has been signed by scores of women, states that Brokaw treated the signatories “with fairness and respect.” Stars such as Rachel Maddow, Andrea Mitchell, and Maria Shriver have signed on.
However, an anonymous staffer told celebrity news site Page Six that she and others “felt forced” to sign the letter of support to protect the network and Brokaw, whom she called NBC’s “golden boy.”
“We had no choice, particularly the lower-level staffers,” she told Page Six. “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.”
NBC has said that management played no role in promoting the letter, which was a grass-roots effort in support of Brokaw.
If true, these allegations present troubling insights into NBC’s workplace culture and reveal an utter lack of accountability for perpetrators of sexual harassment that has persisted at the media giant for nearly thirty years.
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