MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
I let you down. I should have acted faster and more decisively - the words of NPR CEO Jarl in an email to our newsroom. He met with NPR staff this afternoon two days after he asked for the resignation of senior vice president for news Michael Oreskes. Oreskes' resignation came after allegations emerged of sexual harassment that occurred two decades ago and before his time at NPR.
NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik has been covering this story. He joins me from New York. Hi, David.
DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: Mary Louise.
KELLY: So in the interest of being transparent about how we are covering this story, that all-staff meeting was off the record in the interest of women being able to tell their stories and share freely. I went. You chose not to. What have you been able to learn about it?
FOLKENFLIK: It was a tough, contentious meeting. Jarl Mohn was contrite and far more concrete about what he acknowledges now are the failing to heed early warning signs about Mike Oreskes' behavior toward women. A number of female employees in particular voiced great skepticism about his ability to be the one to reshape and reform NPR, and he said he pledged to work very hard to regain their trust.
KELLY: Now, the timeline of what exactly NPR management knew and when has shifted some as the story has unfolded this week. Can you remind us just what we knew a couple of days ago when Oreskes was forced out and then what you've learned since?
FOLKENFLIK: Sure. An assistant producer first filed a complaint against Mike Oreskes in October of 2015. He was formally rebuked after that for a long dinner that delved into personal affairs. In late-September 2016, two veteran editors said that concerns over Mike's behavior towards women had created a toxic workplace. And then there were these two accusations that came in from women who had encounters with him when he was Washington bureau chief for The New York Times almost two decades ago. The first woman came in in October of 2016. The second came in last month, October 2017. At that point, NPR started to look into it more carefully but only took action to suspend him once it had been published in The Washington Post.
KELLY: And you've continued to talk to women who are reporting inappropriate behavior on the part of Oreskes but who have not necessarily taken it to a formal complaint.
FOLKENFLIK: Yes. And I think there have been about a half dozen women - five or six who have made formal complaints since all this news broke. But there are a number of other women who've talked to me, people who work at NPR, a woman who used to work at NPR, a number of women who are thinking about working for NPR after Oreskes had offered them some career counsel and he had encouraged them to do so.
There was the use of social media to sort of start conversations on a friendlier, professional basis, and quickly they veered into the romantic, wistful, laudatory and even sexual. And there seemed to be a grooming of women, sort of a familiarity but also a sense of expanding the boundaries of what's appropriate to allow himself to get entangled with them in ways that they simply did not want.
KELLY: I want people to know that we have reached out. You have reached out to Mike Oreskes himself. He has thus far not commented to NPR other than a statement that went out to staff saying he is sorry, and he apologizes for behavior that was inappropriate. In terms of where this goes next, Jarl Mohn, the NPR CEO, has announced that he's going to bring in an outside law firm to investigate how all this was handled. What exactly are we looking for there?
FOLKENFLIK: Well, we're going to see what they come up with. We're also going to see how public their findings become. And we're going to see how the board reacts to it. And there's one other thing. There's something intangible that's not necessarily formal. But we're going to see how the newsroom reacts and how the company reacts and whether or not Mohn can steady the status ship for himself or whether or not he's has really lost the ability to lead given his handling of the senior executive and his misbehavior towards the women who work for him.
KELLY: NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik, thanks for that and for your reporting all this week.
FOLKENFLIK: You bet.
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