NPR Chief Steps Down in Light of Sexual Harassment Claims

Michael Oreskes.

Another powerful man in the media has stepped down in light of sexual harassment claims. This time, the allegations point to Michael Oreskes of NPR.

Oreskes was the senior VP in charge of news at NPR. Before he held that position, he worked at the New York Times and was the senior managing editor for the Associated Press. Three women claim that they were sexually harassed by Oreskes.

The offenses reportedly range from flirtation to more alarming incidents.

“In separate complaints, [two] women said Oreskes – at the time, the Washington bureau chief of the New York Times – abruptly kissed them while they were speaking with him about working at the newspaper. Both of them told similar stories: After meeting Oreskes and discussing their job prospects, they said he unexpectedly kissed them on the lips and stuck his tongue in their mouths.”

One of the women reports that the encounter permanently damaged her ambition.

“When I first went to see him, it was after screwing up my nerve to try to be bold and maneuver myself into a better job, and after what happened with him, I never really tried that again…”

Do we understand yet, America? Women face these circumstances every day. There is absolutely no reason whatsoever that this should be the case.

The second woman’s story is similar. Times employees remember Oreskes “pestering” a young woman employee with phone calls and messages that made her “nervous.” The incidents took place years ago. However, a woman employed by NPR claims that a session with Orsekes for career counseling turned into “a weird conversation about relationships and his first ‘sex girlfriend.’”

The first two women spoke up because Oreskes was behind NPR’s coverage of Weinstein.

“It’s sickening. I want to say: ‘You owe me…a public apology. You should recuse yourself.’” – one accuser to The Washington Post.

Oreskes released a statement:

“I am deeply sorry to the people I hurt. My behavior was wrong and inexcusable, and I accept full responsibility. 

To my colleagues, I am grateful for every minute I’ve had to work with each of you. NPR has an important job to do. Public radio matters so much and I will always be your supporter.”

Apologies aren’t enough.

Following the explosive reports regarding Harvey Weinstein’s sexual abuse, media outlets have begun to take these allegations seriously. Before the scandal, Oreskes may not have been forced to resign. Men were given the benefit of the doubt, given training on “proper workplace behavior,” and perhaps suspended. The fact that this behavior is predatory has never been quite acknowledged.

Let’s hope things keep moving in the direction that they should: men must assume responsibility for their actions and employers must apply proper consequences. Men like Oreskes and the numerous others accused of similar behavior should never, ever hold positions of power.

Women, continue to speak up. We can’t let these scandals fall by the wayside. What can men like Oreskes do to shift the scales and ensure that such behavior is not tolerated in the workplace?

So far, none have stepped up to the occasion.