Sexual misconduct revolution
January 11, 2018

On Wednesday, The Washington Post suspended veteran reporter Joel Achenbach for 90 days for unspecified "inappropriate workplace conduct" involving current and former female colleagues. In a statement, Achenbach said he's "very sorry to say that I've behaved badly" and "said and done things that were unprofessional, and I apologize to the women affected by this and acknowledge their courage in speaking out." Achenbach has been with the Post since 1990.

The Post said that 90 days without pay is the most severe punishment it has handed out in years for violations of workplace or journalistic standards, and compared Achenbach's suspension to the punishment meted out by The New York Times to reporter Glenn Thrush. Managing Editor Tracy Grant said if new information or allegations of misconduct is uncovered, Achenbach will face further disciplinary action up to and including termination. He is the first Post journalist punished since the current flood of sexual misconduct allegations hit Hollywood, the news media, and politics in October, the newspaper said. Peter Weber

January 11, 2018

On Tuesday, rumors started spreading on Twitter that in the March issue of Harper's, the writer Katie Roiphe was going to publish the name of the woman who created the "Sh--ty Media Men" spreadsheet, a list of more than 70 men in the news media alongside anonymous allegations of sexual harassment or assault they were said to have committed. With anger and concern growing about the rumored outing, a writer named Moira Donegan identified herself as the creator of the spreadsheet Wednesday night.

Donegan wrote in The Cut that she started the private Google spreadsheet as a way to expand the informal "whisper networks" female journalists use to warn each other about male journalists known to be sexually abusive in one way or another. "The anonymous, crowdsourced document was a first attempt at solving what has seemed like an intractable problem: how women can protect ourselves from sexual harassment and assault," she wrote. She took it offline after about 12 hours when she was warned BuzzFeed would make its existence public. It had already gone viral.

As the spreadsheet's cells filled with stories of everything from crass comments to rape, the "solidarity was thrilling, but the stories were devastating," Donegan wrote. "I realized that the behavior of a few men I had wanted women to be warned about was far more common that I had ever imagined."

Before Donegan went public, Roiphe told The New York Times that she did not know who created the Media Men list and "would never put in the creator of the list if they didn't want to be named." Donegan and the Times both say a Harper's fact-checker said in an email that Roiphe had identified Donegan "as a woman widely believed to be one of the creators" of the list, but Harper's spokeswoman Giulia Melucci said that doesn't mean the name would appear in the final article. "Fact-checking is part of reporting," she told the Times. Read Donegan's entire essay at The Cut. Peter Weber

January 10, 2018

On Tuesday night, The New York Times canceled a public TimesTalk event scheduled for Wednesday featuring James Franco, citing "the controversy surrounding recent allegations." Franco wore a "Time's Up" pin at the Golden Globe on Sunday, and while he was accepting an award for his film The Disaster Artist, several women accused him of sexual misconduct on Twitter, the most serious accusation being from actress Violet Paley about coerced oral sex. Franco did not comment on the accusations at the National Board of Review Awards gala on Tuesday, but he did discuss them with Stephen Colbert on The Late Show, which taped before the TimesTalk cancelation but aired after it.

Franco told Colbert that he fully supports the Time's Up movement and its goals of ending sexual harassment and raising more women and minorities to positions of power. Regarding the sexual misconduct accusations, "there were some things on Twitter — I didn't read them, I've heard about them," he said. "Look, in my life I pride myself on taking responsibility for things that I've done," he added. "The things that I heard that were on Twitter are not accurate — but I completely support people coming out and being able to have a voice because they didn't have a voice for so long. So, I don't want to shut them down in any way. It's a good thing, and I support it."

Colbert asked Franco about the dynamic of accusations via Twitter, and Franco responded that "the way I live my life, I can't live if there's restitution to be made. I will make it. So if I've done something wrong, I will fix it. I have to." As for "the bigger issues," he said, "look, I really don't have the answers and I think the point of this whole thing is that we listen." Watch below. Peter Weber

January 10, 2018

Actor Michael Douglas told Deadline on Tuesday that at least one publication is working on an article relaying accusations from a former employee that he used lewd language in front of her and masturbated in front of her 32 years ago. Douglas said he "was uncomfortable waiting to be the villain in a narrative crafted by either The Hollywood Reporter or Variety," Deadline's Mike Fleming Jr. writes, and he reached out to deny the allegations. "The accusation story will most likely follow elsewhere, but in this moment of 'she said, he said' trial by journalism, it was never specified whose version had to be first," Fleming noted, then printed his interview with Douglas.

Douglas said the unidentified "lady who was involved in development at my company" told The Hollywood Reporter that he "used colorful language in front of her, not at her," that "in conversations I had in front of her, on the phone, that I spoke raunchily, or dirtily with friends of mine," that he had "blackballed her from the industry," and that he'd "masturbated in front of her." He said he did dismiss her because her area of production wasn't performing well, and "if people from the industry called me to ask about her, I would have been honest, but I never blackballed her."

Douglas confessed to using "colorful language" and apologized "if I used coarse language with my friends," but he called the masturbation claim "a complete lie, fabrication, no truth to it whatsoever." Masturbating in front of female employees is "something I've only heard about the last year," he said. Douglas unequivocally denied harassing the woman or any other woman in his 50-year career, said he supports "the #MeToo movement with all my heart," and complained about the lack of "due process." You can read his entire pre-emptive denial at Deadline. Peter Weber

January 3, 2018

On Tuesday, H. Brandt Ayers, the chairman of Alabama's Consolidated Publishing and former publisher of one of its newspapers, The Anniston Star, acknowledged that he had spanked at least one female reporter in the 1970s. Former Star editor Trish O'Conner said she had received a phone call from "very, very upset" 26-year-old police reporter Wendy Sigal in 1974. "She said Brandy had been to her apartment. He told her she had been a bad girl and she needed to be spanked — and he spanked her." Ayers, who was about 39 at the time, confirmed that account, The Star reports:

Ayers claimed Sigal had been out of work because of a psychological ailment. "I called the doctor and asked what should do, and he said 'calm her down,'" Ayers said. He said he asked the doctor if spanking would work, and the doctor said yes. Ayers said Tuesday he didn't recall the name of the doctor. O'Connor and one other Star reporter said they'd never heard of management contacting employees' doctors when they were home sick in the 1970s. [The Anniston Star]

Ayers also tacitly confirmed the account of another Star reporter, Veronica Pike Kennedy, who said Ayers spanked her in the newsroom in 1975, when she was in her early 20s; another former Star reporter said he witnessed the assault on Kennedy, and two other unidentified women told The Star that Ayers had also spanked them against their wishes, with sexual overtones. Ayers, who was publisher until 2016, said he has no intention of stepping down as chairman of his family's publishing company. "Of course not," he said. "I am the third generation of a family that has served honorably, even courageously, in the public interest." You can read more at The Anniston Star. Peter Weber

January 3, 2018

On Tuesday night, the University of Arizona fired head football coach Rich Rodriguez, effective immediately, saying an investigation launched in October into sexual harassment claims by a former athletic department employee had turned up other information that caused the university "to be concerned with the direction and climate of the football program." Rodriguez, 54, was in the sixth year of a contract scheduled to last until May 2020, and the university said it will "honor the separation terms of his contract," which include a $6.3 million buyout, USA Today reports.

The outside investigation, conducted by a law firm, had been unable to substantiate the harassment claims, in part because the accuser had declined to cooperate or "turn over communications that she alleged provided support for her allegations," the university said in a letter. Instead, she had threatened a potentially embarrassing lawsuit and filed a notice of financial claim with the state attorney general. In a separate statement, Rodriguez denied the harassment claims from the woman, whom he identified as his former administrative assistant, but said the investigation had uncovered "a consensual extramarital affair with a woman who is not affiliated with the university."

Arizona's 7-6 record this past season was an improvement over 2016's 3-9 flop, but Rodriguez was considered to be on thin ice before October's complaint and investigation. Peter Weber

See More Speed Reads