Linda McMahon will be taking Tom Brokaw’s place as the graduation speaker for Sacred Heart University in the wake of allegations that the former NBC News anchor tried to kiss and grope an NBC News correspondent in the 1990s.
Sacred Heart University President John Petillo provided NBC Connecticut with the statement he sent to the university community and it says Brokaw did not want to distract from “the intended and most important focus of the day - our graduating students and their families” and withdrew as the speaker for the undergraduate commencement, which takes place on Saturday, May 12.
The allegations against Brokaw come from Linda Vester, a former NBC News correspondent. She told The Washington Post and Variety that Brokaw made unwanted advances toward her twice, in 1994 and 1995, and tried to kiss and grope her.
Brokaw’s statement, which was released through NBC News, says: “I met with Linda Vester on two occasions, both 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 retired from his positions of anchor and managing editor of "Nightly News" in 2004 and is now a special correspondent.
"She often sought me out for informal meetings, including the one she describes in her New York hotel room. I should not have gone but I emphatically did not verbally and physically attack her and suggest an affair in language right out of pulp fiction," Brokaw wrote.
He also described an encounter at Vester's apartment.
"As I remember, she was at one end of a sofa, I was at the other. It was late and I had been up for 24 hours. As I got up to leave I may have leaned over for a perfunctory goodnight kiss but my memory is that it happened at the door - on the cheek. No clenching her neck. That move she so vividly describes is NOT WHO I AM. Not in high school, college or thereafter," the letter read.
Sacred Heart announced Friday Brokaw's decision to bow out of the commencement ceremony.
“This morning Tom Brokaw informed us of his decision to withdraw as our undergraduate commencement speaker. 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,” Petillo said in his statement to the university community.
McMahon, the U.S. Small Business Administration administrator and a member of President Donald Trump’s cabinet, will be now speaking to the students at graduation.
“We respect and agree with Mr. Brokaw’s decision, and I am delighted to announce that the Honorable Linda McMahon, member of the President’s Cabinet and former SHU trustee, will be our keynote speaker this year,” the statement from Petillo goes on to say.
McMahon, a Connecticut resident and one of the founders of World Wrestling Entertainment, is a former Sacred Heart University trustee who will be receiving an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, degree.