Chairman Steps Down As NPR Grapples With Harassment Crisis As NPR addresses fallout of a sexual harassment scandal that claimed its chief news executive, the network's board chairman has stepped down and an editor has been placed on leave.
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Chairman Steps Down As NPR Grapples With Harassment Crisis

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Chairman Steps Down As NPR Grapples With Harassment Crisis

Chairman Steps Down As NPR Grapples With Harassment Crisis

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More fallout here at NPR today over sexual harassment concerns. The chairman of NPR's board of directors has decided to step down from that role, and a senior editor is now on leave. NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik and NPR reporter Merrit Kennedy report complaints have been filed against both men. David joins us now from our bureau in New York. Hi, David.


HU: So what can you tell us about the complaints and who they're against?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, obviously this is all against the backdrop both of national sexual harassment scandals and, you know, a real crisis and also those things besetting this very network - the departure of course of our editor-in-chief Mike Oreskes not so many days ago. What we're reporting today is that Roger LaMay - he was the chairman of the board. He finished his second one-year term. He chose not to run again. There was a complaint filed against him. He characterized it in a note to me - or just not so very long ago where he said, I did not make this decision based on a third-party story about my personal life over a decade ago. I welcome any board committee review. We don't have a lot of details about the nature of that.

The claims against David Sweeney involve three women, one of whom was willing to be named a - an editor here at the network. The other's a - producers here - still here at the network and a former producer at the network. They have a variety - three different complaints, one stemming back as far as 2002 - an unwanted kiss - 2007, another attempted kiss in what was supposed to be a - drinks to talk about career advancement.

And the third - a series of interactions that were interpreted by a much younger female colleague who was subordinate - directly subordinate to David Sweeney, currently on leave, our chief news editor. She said that basically she interpreted these things as romantic overtures in an unwanted, unsolicited way and unrequited and that it went on some time and that she wondered whether certain career advancements she didn't experience was - as a result of not responding to those appeals to her.

HU: You mentioned a response from LaMay. What about David Sweeney? What does he have to say?

FOLKENFLIK: David Sweeney's on leave. He's one of a handful of the most senior people at the network, although not well-known outside it. And he declined to comment, saying that he's trying to, you know, be responsive to the network and allow the process of review to work. We should stress these things have not yet been proven, and NPR hasn't drawn any conclusions about the nature of these allegations while taking them seriously.

HU: David, you've been reporting. And it's no secret of course that there's a lot of tension in our newsroom, especially among younger women. So what has the network done to address that?

FOLKENFLIK: You know, we have an acting CEO. Our current CEO, Jarl Mohn, went on leave for medical reasons. He had a near-fatal aortal rupture early this year. So the acting CEO is our COO, Loren Mayor. She has been very responsive. She's been meeting with women in small groups. I've been hearing from women in the headquarters in D.C. where you are that people have found this to be a comforting - sort of first steps, a hopeful sign.

She has also said that, you know, she received a letter from an employment lawyer who claimed to be acting on behalf of 200 women at NPR and who articulated a series of desired goals. And Loren Mayor not only spelled them out but said she embraced them, that she wanted to find ways to enact them, that she wanted to include the newsroom in finding out solutions. So these are seen as hopeful first steps.

HU: So no chairman of the board and a CEO who's on medical leave - what's next?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, I think you're seeing some settling. We do have a chairman of the board, Paul Haaga, who used to have that role - is back in the saddle there. An experienced board member is the vice chair. You know, I think NPR is going to have to figure out whether Jarl Mohn can return to the board full-time. But what you're really seeing is a network and an organization trying to be responsive to what is a sexual harassment crisis, a concern about how women are treated and also a recognition of the fact that they need to really unify this newsroom after a lot of strife, a lot of certainty - uncertainty and a lot of tumult.

HU: A fuller version of David's story - David and Merrit Kennedy's story is at David, thanks.



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