'Morning Joe' host Mika Brzezinski publicly supported news vet Brokaw amid misconduct claims, privately apologized to accuser
When a woman named Linda Vester accused NBC News legend Tom Brokaw of sexual misconduct in the spring of 2018, colleague host Mika Brzezinski publicly rushed to his defense.
Three months later, she privately apologized to Vester after a bizarre series of events, seemingly admitting she believed her after all --- but Brzezinski never went public with that apology.
It all started when Vester, a onetime NBC correspondent and former Fox News anchor, alleged -- with the #MeToo movement gaining momentum by April 2018 -- that Brokaw had made unwanted advances toward her twice in the 1990s. She alleged this included an attempt to forcibly kiss Vester, who was in her 20s at the time.
"Morning Joe" co-host Brzezinski was one of more than 60 women who signed a letter supporting Brokaw only two days after Vester first went public with her claims. It irked Vester that high-powered women could blindly defend a powerful man, so she said she couldn’t resist confronting Brzezinski when she had the chance.
In a text message obtained by Fox News, Brzezinski appeared to apologize to Vester on behalf of Brokaw following a dinner to hash out a heated conversation that had occurred when Vester spied the outspoken MSNBC morning show host while jogging in the New York City suburb where they both lived.
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“We knew each other. I saw her, she said, ‘Hey,’ and then I slowed down and I said, ‘So, I just have to ask you, why did you sign that letter?’ And she went off on me in a way that was so shocking,” Vester told Fox News about the exchange that occurred outside the home of Brzezinski and “Morning Joe” namesake Joe Scarborough.
Brzezinski “started yelling at me, saying Tom Brokaw is an old man and he probably wouldn’t survive” the allegations, Vester said.
In response, Brzezinski said Thursday night, “I am saddened that a personal conversation between two working mothers was so twisted out of context, and that my personal text expressing sympathy for Linda’s problems at multiple networks was screenshot and sent to a competitor in an attempt to discredit me. The story is false.”
Brzezinski has fancied herself a champion of women and penned the 2011 book “Knowing Your Value: Women, Money and Getting What You’re Worth.” But, she also has come under fire for criticizing the woman who first accused former Minnesota Sen. Al Franken of sexual misconduct and reportedly tried to help salvage the career of her former colleague, now-disgraced political journalist Mark Halperin.
Brzezinski "thought I was being a little too cute and that she didn’t believe that I had done enough to fend him off,” Vester said.
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“I said, ‘Mika, you have said that you were a victim of sexual assault, right?’ She said, ‘Yes.’ I said, ‘Was there a power differential involved in your case?’ She goes, ‘Yes,’” Vester explained. “I said, ‘Then I think you know exactly what I’m talking about.’”
Vester said Brzezinski then questioned how believable Vester appeared in a video interview with Variety, before Scarborough came out of the house. Scarborough stepped in, according to Vester, to help calm the situation, encouraging them to continue the discussion at a more appropriate time.
“I just kept talking to her and explaining: ‘Mika, we live a few houses away from each other. Before you signed that letter you could have just walked down the street or emailed me,’” Vester said. “I don’t remember her response, but at that point, Joe Scarborough walked out of the house."
Brzezinski allegedly had a change of heart during the impromptu war of words.
“Mika settled down, and we talked some more and she finally said, ‘I believe you, I believe your account,’” Vester said.
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“I was just so taken aback by how she attacked me when I just asked her a question. Immediately after my run, I called my attorney and my husband and gave them a blow-by-blow,” Vester said, adding, “Then she texted me and said, ‘Let’s have dinner together.’”
When reached by Fox News, Vester's attorney, Ari Wilkenfeld, confirmed that he had been made aware of the alleged encounter soon after it happened.
In an apparent attempt to clear the air, Brzezinski is said to have suggested they get together and the cable news power couple eventually went to Vester’s home to break bread.
“We had a nice dinner together,” Vester said. “We got along fine over dinner. Totally fine. We talked about other things, [Brokaw] never came up during dinner.”
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Brzezinski sent Vester a text message following the meal on July 2, 2018, thanking her for a “delicious dinner” and alluding to the fact that she believed her claims against Brokaw.
“I loved talking and sharing with you, I am so sorry about what happened to you,” Brzezinski wrote in the text message, obtained by Fox News.
A source close to Brzezinski told Fox News the text was regarding “a deeply private conversation about multiple personal challenges Vester faced, that is now being willfully taken out of context.”
Vester said she has not spoken to Brzezinski since that text message.
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“She moved away,” Vester said. “In the end, I was satisfied when she said she believed my account. I let it go because she came around and said, ‘I believe you.’”
MSNBC declined comment when reached by Fox News.
NBC News reportedly never conducted a thorough investigation of the misconduct claims; Brokaw remains employed by the network to this day. He appeared on Brzezinski’s “Morning Joe” as recently as Sept. 11.
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NBC News declined comment when asked if the letter signed by female employees to support Brokaw directly influenced the decision not to launch a major investigation into Vester’s claims.
Brokaw has strongly denied Vester’s allegations.
Vester hesitantly shared this story as Ronan Farrow’s upcoming book, “Catch and Kill," is on the verge of thrusting NBC News’ culture issues back into the national spotlight. She appears to have no ill will toward the “Morning Joe” co-host, but simply wants women in power at NBC to make things right. Vester believes that the Peacock Network’s culture won’t change until women like Brzezinski speak out.
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“I think that Mika, Rachel Maddow, Savannah Guthrie, Hoda Kotb should all be using the power that they have as highly paid anchors to push NBC to investigate all of the high-profile alleged harassers who are still walking the halls of the newsroom,” Vester said. “They make a lot of money and they should use that bully pulpit, that power, to make NBC do what’s right.”
Vester worked at NBC News from 1989 until 1999, when she left and joined Fox News. From 2002 to 2005, she hosted “Dayside with Linda Vester,” but left television in 2005 to be a stay-at-home mom to her four children. She has maintained a relationship with Fox News, sometimes appearing as a guest on the network, and penned an opinion piece for FoxNews.com in 2018.
In response to her initial claim, Brokaw called Vester “a former colleague who left NBC News angry that she had failed in her pursuit of stardom,” and said she "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.”