The relatively sudden cascade of sexual harassment allegations across the nation began with a New York Times exposé of film mogul Harvey Weinstein, who has a history of sexual harassment allegations being levied against him. In a little more than a month, Weinstein and other alleged harassers have been forced out of positions of power. This zero tolerance attitude toward sexual harassment has been deemed the “Weinstein effect.”
New York Times reporter accused by multiple women
This week, the effect came full circle when sexual harassment allegations were brought against the Times’ White House reporter Glenn Thrush, who has also worked for Politico and MSNBC. Thrush has been suspended while the Times investigates accusations that he made unwanted sexual advances on young female colleagues while working at the Times and Politico.
MSNBC is awaiting the outcome of the Times’ investigation before scheduling further appearances by Thrush. A spokesperson for Random House, where Thrush has a book deal, said the company is considering the allegations “closely and seriously.”
Fox News to establish a workplace culture panel to address costly misconduct
Meanwhile, a sexual harassment scandal at Fox News brought about a shareholder settlement with parent company 21st Century Fox. The shareholder, the City of Monroe Employees’ Retirement System in Michigan, agreed to resolve a complaint about the cost of multiple sexual harassment and discrimination settlements.
According to the Times, 21st Century Fox incurred $50 million in losses by settling multiple complaints. That number does not include multimillion-dollar payouts to former chairman Roger Ailes and host Bill O’Reilly, who were forced out last spring.
After the first sexual harassment scandal in July 2016, 21st Century Fox had promised to clean house and foster a culture of respect at Fox News and beyond. Months of inaction on the issue, along with a contract extension for O’Reilly, may have motivated the shareholder to take action.
Under the agreement with the shareholder, Fox News will create a Workplace Professionalism and Inclusion Council headed by four independent experts and two HR executives from the company.
21st Century Fox has also made changes to its management and hired a new head of HR for Fox News. The company has also expanded its anti-harassment and discrimination training and is offering new reporting paths.
“For far too long, corporate leaders failed to act against harassing conduct in their midst by treating it as isolated incidents,” said a lawyer for the shareholder. He went on to say that corporate boards are obligated to set policies and structures to protect employees from “the widespread improper abuse of the past.”
Nevertheless, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan is investigating the legality of how Fox News handled sexual harassment complaints.