The media landscape is shifting amid a swell of harassment revelations.
Some journalists have called for this moment—in which women are heard and believed when they come forward to report harassment and sexual misconduct—and high-profile peers now find themselves defending their past actions and, possibly, seeing their careers end.
New York Times White House correspondent Glenn Thrush was suspended Monday after a Vox article reported that five women were accusing him of unwanted advances and inappropriate use of his power to secure one-on-one interactions with young female journalists.
On that night five years ago, I joined Thrush and a handful of other reporters for a few rounds at the Continental, a Politico hangout in Rosslyn, Virginia. At first, nothing seemed strange, until the crowd had dwindled down to Thrush, me, and one other female colleague.
Thrush tossed a $20 bill at her and told her to take a cab and leave us, “the grown-ups,” alone. He slid into my side of the booth, blocking me in. I was wearing a skirt, and he put his hand on my thigh. He started kissing me. I pulled myself together and got out of there, shoving him on my way out.
The New York Times swiftly moved to suspend Thrush and promised a thorough investigation. Thrush’s former employer Politico also responded to the news, expressing shock and a commitment to a safe workplace for everyone.
“The behavior attributed to Glenn in this Vox story is very concerning and not in keeping with the standards and values of The New York Times ,” The Times said in a statement on Monday. “We intend to fully investigate and while we do, Glenn will be suspended.”
“My recollection of my interactions with Laura differs greatly from hers — the encounter was consensual, brief, and ended by me,” he said in a statement, according to Politico. “She was an editor above me at the time and I did not disparage her to colleagues at POLITICO as she claims.”
Later, talk host and daytime TV personality Charlie Rose was suspended from all three networks that carry his programs after eight women accused him of inappropriate conduct in a story for the Washington Post.
Rumors about Rose’s behavior have circulated for years. One of the authors of this report, Outlook contributing writer Irin Carmon, first heard and attempted to report on the allegations involving two of the women while she was a journalist at Jezebel in 2010 but was unable to confirm them. In the past several weeks in the wake of accusations against Harvey Weinstein, Carmon and Post investigative reporter Amy Brittain jointly began contacting dozens of men and women who had worked on the “Charlie Rose” show or interviewed for jobs there.
Both accusations are among well-known industry secrets that have bubbled to the surface, prompting public condemnation.
Vox placed its coverage in the context of other media figures who have stepped down due to harassment allegations:
The downfall of Hollywood titan [Harvey] Weinstein has been a catalyst for a movement to stamp out workplace harassment, particularly the variety to pits powerful men against much less powerful women. They are facing consequences for their behavior like never before, including men in media. Halperin lost a coveted book deal. NPR news chief Michael Oreskes resigned. Leon Wieseltier lost funding for his new magazine. And Lockhart Steele, the editorial director of Vox Media, Vox’s parent company, was fired for misconduct.
[FREE GUIDE: 3 helpful tips for your crisis comms prep]
Both Rose and Thrush have released statements about their misconduct. Thrush pointed to drinking alcohol and bad health news as cover for his actions.
The June incident [described above] was a life-changing event [for me]. The woman involved was upset by my actions and for that I am deeply sorry.
Over the past several years, I have responded to a succession of personal and health crises by drinking heavily. During that period, I have done things that I am ashamed of, actions that have brought great hurt to my family and friends.
I have not taken a drink since June 15, 2017, have resumed counseling and will soon begin out-patient treatment for alcoholism. I am working hard to repair the damage I have done.
Rose sought to maintain his image as a defender of women, pointing to his long career and disputing the veracity of some recollections by his accusers.
“In my 45 years in journalism, I have prided myself on being an advocate for the careers of the women with whom I have worked,” Rose said in a statement provided to The Post. “Nevertheless, in the past few days, claims have been made about my behavior toward some former female colleagues.
“It is essential that these women know I hear them and that I deeply apologize for my inappropriate behavior. I am greatly embarrassed. I have behaved insensitively at times, and I accept responsibility for that, though I do not believe that all of these allegations are accurate. I always felt that I was pursuing shared feelings, even though I now realize I was mistaken.
He also said he has learned from this turn of events and wishes to be an example.
The statement continued:
“I have learned a great deal as a result of these events, and I hope others will too. All of us, including me, are coming to a newer and deeper recognition of the pain caused by conduct in the past, and have come to a profound new respect for women and their lives.”
PBS, which distributes Rose’s nightly interview program, suspended its distribution and condemned the host’s actions.
“PBS was shocked to learn today of these deeply disturbing allegations,” the public broadcasting service said in a statement. “We are immediately suspending distribution of ‘Charlie Rose.'”
CBS News also reported on Rose, who has occasionally hosted “60 Minutes.”
We’ve been able to reach one of the accusers. She didn’t want to go on camera but confirmed the reporting is accurate, reports CBS News correspondent Bianna Golodryga. Additional women have since spoken out to Business Insider and the New York Times. Some say he groped them or exposed himself to them, and many paint a picture of a respected figure abusing his position.
The word “disturbing” recurs as a theme for companies looking to distance themselves from such allegations. Politico used similar wording to convey it was unaware of Thrush’s behavior.
Politico CEO Patrick Steel addressed the Vox story in an email to staff on Monday, calling the allegations against Thrush “serious and disturbing.”
“The notion that anyone at POLITICO would be subjected to harassment—or feel as though they couldn’t speak out—is totally unacceptable to me,” Steel said. “Our standards and values leave no ambiguity—this behavior will not be tolerated, period.”
Axios has detailed a list of all male journalists accused of harassment. The media watchdog is convinced the industry landscape is changing—and that other fields will not escape unscathed.
No industry or business is left out – not even news agencies reporting on these allegations. The incessant accusations from women show that we have a systemic problem — for too long we’ve allowed a culture where powerful men think they can get away with sexually harassing female colleagues and employees.
One problem facing organizations that want to distance themselves from men accused of misconduct is that harassment has been a well-known dirty secret for years. Industry insiders shared on Twitter the whispers that were heard immediately following the Weinstein story.
After the first Harvey Weinstein story came out, people immediately began to talk about Charlie Rose….he was one of the first names mentioned… https://t.co/h76ytp3FIj
— Yashar Ali 🐘 (@yashar) November 20, 2017
Others have remarked on the clear, detailed reporting in these stories:
One thing the Washington Post has really done in these investigative stories is be very transparent about perspectives of sources & how stories came about and were reported https://t.co/2N1OXKm9gq
— Katherine Miller (@katherinemiller) November 20, 2017
— Dylan Matthews (@dylanmatt) November 20, 2017
Colleagues denounced Rose’s behavior on the program he once co-hosted:
— Yashar Ali 🐘 (@yashar) November 21, 2017
Other industry fellows were notably silent:
An awful lot of prominent male political journalists seem curiously quiet about the Glenn Thrush bombshell.
— Matthew Gertz (@MattGertz) November 20, 2017
PR Daily readers, what do you think? Which will be the next industry to see a wave of allegations and apologies?
UPDATE: CBS fires Charlie Rose over misconduct allegations
CBS has chosen not to wait.
The broadcaster’s news division has fired Charlie Rose, severing ties with the embroiled TV personality just one day after the Washington Post reported on eight women’s claims he had harassed them.
CBS said Tuesday that it has fired Charlie Rose “effective immediately,” following an extensive Washington Post report that detailed alleged unwanted sexual advances toward women by the 75-year-old broadcaster.
His firing was announced by CBS News President David Rhodes, who wrote in a midday memo to the network’s staff that the action “followed the revelation yesterday of extremely disturbing and intolerable behavior said to have revolved around [Rose’s] PBS program.”
The move is a more definitive action than previous responses by media outlets where the accused were put on leave while an investigation took place.
The Washington Post continued:
“Despite Charlie’s important journalistic contribution to our news division, there is absolutely nothing more important, in this or any organization, than ensuring a safe, professional workplace — a supportive environment where people feel they can do their best work. We need to be such a place.”
An internal memo was also circulated to employees at CBS News suggesting that Rose’s swift departure was an effort to maintain CBS’s reputation.
Rhodes, the CBS News president, wrote in his internal memo Tuesday that the network’s news operation “has reported on extraordinary revelations at other media companies this year and last. Our credibility in that reporting requires credibility managing basic standards of behavior. That is why we have taken these actions.
Rhodes also communicated an anger that CBS was now connected to Rose’s actions:
“I’m deeply disappointed and angry that people were victimized — and that even people not connected with these events could see their hard work undermined. If all of us commit to the best behavior and the best work — that is what we can be known for.”