Five months ago, the New Republic rebuked Fox News for its “toxic workplace for women,” citing sexual misconduct accusations against former chief Roger Ailes. Turns out that the same thing could have been said of the New Republic.
Two of the liberal magazine’s most prominent figures have been accused of sexual harassment as aftershocks from the Harvey Weinstein scandal reverberate through some of the nation’s leading journalism outlets.
Those include ABC, NBC, MSNBC, The New York Times, National Public Radio, and Vox Media — left-tilting outlets that have become vulnerable to charges of hypocrisy for championing women in public while apparently tolerating or failing to notice offensive behavior in their newsrooms.
And then there’s hubbub surrounding a list, first revealed last month by BuzzFeed, an anonymous spreadsheet making the rounds that reportedly lists dozens of men accused of offenses including physical violence, “flirting” and “weird lunch dates.”
Journalism isn’t the only industry rocked by the “Weinstein effect,” but the sheer number of high-profile newsmen accused of sexual misconduct has insiders waiting to see whose name will next surface on the wrong side of a headline.
“Panic Hits Hollywood and Media Elite: Which Harasser Will Be Outed Next?” The Hollywood Reporter asked in a Wednesday post.
The latest media figure was Michael Oreskes, NPR’s senior vice president for news, who resigned Wednesday after several women said he sexually harassed them.
The accusations stemmed from incidents during his tenure at NPR and The New York Times, where Mr. Oreskes worked from 1981 to 2005, including stints as Washington bureau chief and deputy managing editor.
NPR has reported candidly on the scandal, which began with two women who told The Washington Post that he unexpectedly kissed them and stuck his tongue into their mouths while discussing their job prospects. Five more women have since come forward.
One woman first reached out to NPR in 2016, but NPR CEO Jarl Mohn said she referred to an incident 20 years ago at The New York Times.
“The important distinction here is first, that did not happen at NPR, it was not an NPR employee,” Mr. Mohn said in the NPR report. “It was at The New York Times, and it occurred 20 years ago. Had that happened at NPR, we would have had a very different reaction to it.”
Mr. Oreskes apologized in a statement, saying, “I am deeply sorry to the people I hurt. My behavior was wrong and inexcusable, and I accept full responsibility.”
His departure came with the journalism industry still reeling from the firing of Mark Halperin, a political analyst for NBC and MSNBC, whose contract was terminated Monday over sexual harassment accusations stemming from his tenure at ABC News.
More than a dozen women have accused Mr. Halperin of sexual harassment, as reported by CNN, prompting HBO to scrap a project for a miniseries based on his account of the 2016 presidential election, written with frequent collaborator John Heilemann.
Former CNN senior producer Eleanor McManus described Mr. Halperin’s behavior as an “open secret” in an interview on NBC’s “Megyn Kelly Today,” saying she was a student when she met him and he “tried to kiss me and attempted to do a bit more.”
“I didn’t want to offend the man in charge of political programming at ABC News, and I tried to be courteous and apologetic, and practically ran out of the office,” Ms. McManus said, as reported by Salon.
Mr. Halperin has apologized for “the pain and anguish I have caused by my past action.” He denied some of the more shocking accounts, such as masturbation in front of an ABC News employee in his office and throwing another woman against a window before kissing her.
New Republic publisher Hamilton Fish V was placed on leave of absence last week after misconduct accusations from female employees that stretch back 10 years to his stint at The Nation Institute, a foundation associated with The Nation magazine.
Meanwhile, longtime literary editor Leon Wieseltier, who served from 1983 to 2014, has been accused by multiple women of inappropriate touching and kissing, crude comments about sex and evaluations of his female co-workers’ outfits.
Mr. Wieseltier no longer works for the New Republic, but the accusations two weeks ago were still costly. The Emerson Collective, headed by Laurene Powell Jobs, widow of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, canceled funding of a journal, Idea, that he would have edited.
Mr. Fish has denied the choking incident and told Deadline, “Classic take down underway. We’ll see.”
Mr. Wieseltier has apologized. “For my offenses against some of my colleagues in the past I offer shaken apology and ask for their forgiveness,” he said in a statement to The New York Times. “I am ashamed to know that I made any of them feel demeaned and disrespected. I assure them I will not waste this reckoning.”
Vox Media editorial director Lockhart Steele was fired last month after he admitted to “engaging in conduct that is inconsistent with our core values and is not tolerated at Vox Media,” according to a statement by CEO Jim Bankoff.
Whether newsrooms will clean up their acts remains to be seen, but the Columbia Journalism Review’s Pete Vernon said that “in the weeks since Weinstein, it feels like something has shifted in the culture.”
“As more women come forward to share their stories, industries are reckoning with a problem too long ignored, and journalism is no exception,” he said in an Oct. 26 article headlined, “The media today: The ‘Weinstein effect’ reaches journalism.”
Then again, that was what the American Journalism Review’s Carolyn Weaver said in a report discussing episodes of sexual harassment at newspapers titled, “A Secret No More: At long last, the press is struggling to confront its own sexual harassment problem.”
Included in the article was a comment from Ben Johnson, a newspaper assistant editor who organized a panel on sexual harassment at the American Society of Newspaper Editors convention.
“We’re behind the rest of corporate America in dealing with it,” said Mr. Johnson. “We’re not spending enough money, we’re not spending enough time, we’re not serious about it.”
The article ran in September 1992.
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