NPR news chief Oreskes ousted after harassment allegations

NEW YORK (AP) — Michael Oreskes was ousted Wednesday as National Public Radio’s news chief following sexual harassment accusations, some dating to when he was Washington bureau chief at The New York Times in the 1990s.

Oreskes had been placed on leave by NPR following a report in the Washington Post Tuesday about two women who said that he suddenly kissed them when they were discussing job prospects at the Times. Subsequent to that story, NPR received another complaint about Oreskes’ behavior at the radio network from a current employee, said Jarl Mohn, the company’s president and CEO.

Mohn asked for and received Oreskes’ resignation Wednesday morning. Chris Turpin, NPR’s vice president of news programming and operations, was appointed temporary leader of the radio network’s newsroom.

Oreskes said in a statement that he was deeply sorry to the people he hurt.

“My behavior was wrong and inexcusable, and I accept full responsibility,” he said.

One of the women who complained about Oreskes’ behavior at The Times reported it to NPR last year, and the second did last month, Mohn said in an interview on NPR’s “All Things Considered.” The two women spoke to the Post on condition of anonymity. Following the newspaper’s report, NPR said that Oreskes had been reprimanded after a separate incident in 2015 in which a female producer complained she was made to feel uncomfortable during a dinner when Oreskes talked about sex and asked about her personal life.

Mohn would not discuss details of the new case. But he said on a scale that ranges from the harassment and assault complaints against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein to the 2015 NPR incident, he said it was more along the lines of an uncomfortable conversation.

Mohn said that nothing along the lines of what happened at The Times, with the physical contact, had been reported by employees at NPR, he said.

“Had that happened at NPR we would have had a very different reaction to it,” he said.

Mohn said he’d been asked why it took published news reports for NPR to take action. “The answer is that it did not,” he said. “We have been acting. Some of the steps we took were visible and others weren’t. We have a process in place and we followed that process.”

The Times said through a spokeswoman Wednesday that it was not aware of any other complaints against Oreskes, who had several assignments for the newspaper. Oreskes was a vice president and senior managing editor at The Associated Press from 2008 until he joined NPR in 2015. A spokeswoman from the AP would not discuss whether there had been issues raised about Oreskes’ behavior while he worked there.

Illustrating the issue’s sensitivity, the AP’s executive editor, Sally Buzbee, circulated through the newsroom Wednesday to remind groups of employees about the news organization’s policy on sexual harassment and to encourage them to report any episodes that they have encountered.

Oreskes was one of several media figures to face harassment allegations in recent weeks. 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.

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