NPR chief placed on leave after sex harassment accusations
'We take these kinds of allegations very seriously,' public broadcaster says
The chief editor at National Public Radio, Michael Oreskes, was placed on leave Tuesday after a published report that he abruptly kissed two women who were seeking jobs while he was Washington bureau chief at the New York Times in the 1990s.
The women formally complained to the U.S. public broadcaster and told their stories to the Washington Post, speaking on condition of anonymity. Oreskes, vice president of news and editorial director at NPR, did not immediately return messages seeking comment.
Oreskes was a vice president and senior managing editor at The Associated Press from 2008 until he joined NPR in 2015.
An NPR spokeswoman, Isabel Lara, said Oreskes had been placed on leave after the allegations from the 1990s appeared in the Post.
NPR reported Tuesday that Oreskes was formally rebuked following a separate incident two years ago where a female producer complained she was made to feel uncomfortable after a dinner in which Oreskes talked about sex and inquired about her personal life. The woman, Rebecca Hersher, said on the NPR report that "it undercut my confidence."
NPR said in a statement on Tuesday: "We take these kinds of allegations very seriously. If a concern is raised, we review the matter promptly and take appropriate steps as warranted to assure a safe, comfortable and productive work environment. As a matter of policy, we do not comment about personnel matters."
The women told the Post that they had met with Oreskes to talk about job prospects, while he ran the Times' Washington bureau, when he unexpectedly kissed them and stuck his tongue in their mouths.
Former Times editor Jill Abramson, Oreskes' Washington deputy at the time of the alleged incidents, confirmed to the AP that Oreskes paid extraordinary attention to a woman who worked as a news aide at the Times. Abramson told the Post she wished she had either told Oreskes to change his behaviour or brought concerns to human resources. Abramson, now a senior lecturer at Harvard University, confirmed what she told the Post but had no further comment when reached by the AP.
A spokeswoman for the Times, Danielle Rhoades Ha, said the news organization takes all allegations of sexual harassment seriously and is looking into the case. Oreskes was also at different times a political correspondent, metro editor and deputy managing editor at the Times, as well as executive editor of the Times-owned International Herald Tribune in Paris.
When asked for comment, AP spokeswoman Lauren Easton said the AP does not provide information on personnel matters.
"The Associated Press takes any kind of harassment allegation very seriously," Easton said. "If a report is made, it is promptly investigated and appropriate action is taken. The AP is committed to maintaining a safe working environment and does not tolerate harassment of any kind."
Oreskes is the latest media figure to face harassment allegations. NBC News on Monday fired political contributor Mark Halperin following allegations of inappropriate advances by women when he worked at ABC. The president and publisher of The New Republic, Hamilton Fish, has been placed on a leave of absence following charges against him, and Leon Wieseltier, contributing editor at The Atlantic, was dropped after numerous women said they had been sexually harassed by him.