Accusations Of 'Frat House' Behavior Trail 'LA Times' Publisher's Career Los Angeles Times CEO and Publisher Ross Levinsohn has been a defendant in two sexual harassment lawsuits; female colleagues have repeatedly challenged his conduct in the workplace at various firms.
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Accusations Of 'Frat House' Behavior Trail 'LA Times' Publisher's Career

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Accusations Of 'Frat House' Behavior Trail 'LA Times' Publisher's Career

Accusations Of 'Frat House' Behavior Trail 'LA Times' Publisher's Career

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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

The parent company of the Los Angeles Times has put the paper's publisher and CEO under investigation. That is following reporting by NPR's David Folkenflik. David has uncovered multiple sexual harassment accusations and even lawsuits brought against Ross Levinsohn. And David joins us now. Hey.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: Hey, Kelly.

MCEVERS: So there have been a lot of stories like this about sexual misconduct, allegations at organizations including NPR. In your story on our website, you write that colleagues, friends, court documents, financial filings all come together to portray Ross Levinsohn as a frat boy executive. Can you explain that?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, people who know him describe Ross Levinsohn as a buoyant, affable presence, a friendly figure and kind of a guy who likes to enjoy himself, lift other people up. Part of that involves parties. Part of that involves banter. A lot of that gets into area that becomes uncomfortable for colleagues and particularly women, that some of the banter can be sexualized, that he tends to hire buddies who thinks like he do - he does and that they tend to trail him from job to job. It seems as though he's surrounded, according to the people I talked to and the portrayal of him in these documents - surrounded by like-minded folks who go from job to job over the years.

MCEVERS: What are some of the behavior - you know, specific behavior that you uncovered?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, he's worked at places - a lot of media places over the years. At AltaVista, which was an early web search engine that prefigured Google, he was sued and was among the defendants in that case. He was - he conceded by his own sworn testimony that he rated the relative - and this is the phrase - hotness of the female employees and office banter while the vice president there. He testified he'd speculated about a woman who worked for him there - was a stripper on the side and who she was have - whether or not she was having sex with a co-worker. In another time, when he was working at News Corp, he was sued for essentially helping to foster a sexually harassive (ph) atmosphere. There were settlements in both those cases.

When he was an executive over at the trade publication The Hollywood Reporter, he said to an executive that he didn't want to stay at a luncheon for fashion stylists to the stars because it would involve hanging out with ladies and gays. Except he used an extremely vulgar epithet to decide - to describe gay men. There's a number of instances in which people describe sort of an over-the-top and inappropriate behavior in the workplace setting.

MCEVERS: You've tried to talk to Levinsohn about all this. What has he said in his own defense?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, we laid out detailed statements of the kinds of things we're going to bring to our audience's attention. And instead, he called - of dealing with me, he called our - NPR's CEO, Jarl Mohn. And he said if he felt disparaged, he would hire legal counsel, a clear threat of a lawsuit. And Mohn reminded him of the firewall insulating our reporting from interference from corporate quarters at this network. And it didn't proceed from there. But he has not otherwise offered any response to our allegations.

MCEVERS: He's only been at the LA Times for - since August. Did they - did the parent company of the LA Times, Tronc, know about these allegations before they hired him?

FOLKENFLIK: I think it's a very good question. You know, he's worked at some major companies. He worked at CBS, at AltaVista, at News Corp. He was the interim head of Yahoo for about eight weeks after being an executive there. A lot of this stuff I found in the public record and others from interviews with people who've known him well over the years.

Tronc is going to have to figure out if it didn't do due diligence for a guy they had already paid $600,000 to a consulting firm of - as a consultant. They then hired him as CEO. If they didn't do the due diligence for him as a CEO, that's a question. And if they did, they're going to have to answer why it was appropriate for them to hire somebody who had this record and pattern, including those lawsuits that were settled.

MCEVERS: NPR's David Folkenflik with the exclusive story on LA Times publisher and CEO Ross Levinsohn. Thanks so much.

FOLKENFLIK: You bet.

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