Top NPR Executive Resigns After Sexual Harassment Allegations
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
And let's follow up now on allegations against an executive here at NPR that have led to increasing tensions within our newsroom. Our company's chief editor, Michael Oreskes, resigned yesterday after being accused of sexual harassment. And let's just remember how this all developed.
The Washington Post reported Tuesday that two women recently accused Oreskes of abruptly kissing them after they approached him to talk about job opportunities. These incidents happened in the late 1990s when Oreskes worked for The New York Times. But Oreskes is also facing more recent complaints, including from within the NPR newsroom.
NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik is on the line. And, David, it sounds like you are hearing from more women now coming forward to talk about Oreskes' conduct.
DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: Yes. Let's separate what we know from what's new. There are the two women who came forward to NPR - one in 2016, one just last month to tell them about these incidents from nearly two decades ago. That was reported, as you said, in The Post. There was another I reported on - incident from 2015 involving one of our younger colleagues that I reported on Tuesday night and yesterday. And then there are five women I've spoken to in the last 24 hours.
The women range from a reporter in her 20s to a producer in her 50s. Two are still at NPR. The others were seeking career advice as long ago as a decade and as recently as this past summer. One told me - the producer told me that Oreskes put his palm on her stomach as he passed her in the office and what she called a strong and lingering and definitely unwanted physical caress.
Several others said he sought to convert professional conversations about career paths into very highly personal sessions over wine and dinner. A couple of them said there was the clear implication of romantic involvement, particularly if they had wanted to pursue jobs here at NPR - nothing explicit but very clear to them. They said this was deeply troubling. Two women said they didn't apply to NPR for jobs as a result.
GREENE: OK. Incredibly serious allegations - a growing number of them, it sounds like. And we heard later - late yesterday from our CEO - NPR CEO Jarl Mohn. Go through how he responded to all this.
FOLKENFLIK: Well, there was a surreal moment. He was interviewed yesterday by our colleague, Mary Louise Kelly, for All Things Considered. Dozens of colleagues gathered in the NPR newsroom to look on at this - you know, the windowed studio. They're in our headquarters in D.C. Jarl Mohn, our CEO, stated that, you know, as I said, one of the women first contacted NPR in 2016 about her allegations about what Oreskes has done at the time. And we have a clip of that here.
JARL MOHN: The important distinction here is, first, that did not happen at NPR. It was not an NPR employee. 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.
FOLKENFLIK: You know, the incident in 2015 that I had reported on earlier this week did not involve such physical contact. Mohn said, to his knowledge, nothing of the same severity had happened at NPR. And he said that, you know, there was concern about rumors roiling the NPR headquarters and newsrooms, but they couldn't act on rumors.
Last month, he even sent out an email seeking additional - in a generic sense, anyone who'd report anything that they had heard about sexual harassment that was troubling in light of sort of the age of Harvey Weinstein and Roger Ailes and all of these allegations we've heard of against media executives. He said no employee came forward at that time.
GREENE: We should say that Jarl Mohn has not been directly asked yet about some of the details that you were giving us about these other women who are coming forward. Is that right?
FOLKENFLIK: That's right. And let's also be clear, Michael Oreskes has not commented on any specifics. He's just simply said he's deeply sorry that his behavior was wrong and inexcusable and he accepted responsibility. But I think there are a lot of people in our newsroom, not just women, who are deeply upset. They feel that NPR knew about troubling indicators early on - should have acted more quickly to protect their colleagues.
GREENE: OK, NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik. David, thanks for your reporting.
FOLKENFLIK: You bet.
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