NYT: Reporter suspended while paper investigates sex-harassment allegations

Mark Halperin, move aside. The sexual harassment scandal has found another significant target in political media. The New York Times announced today that they have suspended their White House correspondent Glenn Thrush following allegations of predatory behavior during his tenure at Politico. Vox editor Laura McGann wrote a scathing indictment of Thrush, a combination of first-person and reported allegations, which paint Thrush as a boozy predator of young women in media:

“He kept saying he’s an advocate for women and women journalists,” a 23-year-old woman told me, recounting an incident with Thrush from this past June. “That’s how he presented himself to me. He tried to make himself seem like an ally and a mentor.”

She paused. “Kind of ironic now.” …

If Thrush is acutely aware of what young women face in the business of political journalism, he should also know it’s because he himself is one of the problems women face. Five years ago, when Thrush and I were colleagues at Politico, I was in the same bar as Padró Ocasio’s friend — perhaps the same booth — when he caught me off guard, put his hand on my thigh, and suddenly started kissing me. Thrush says that he recalls the incident differently.

Three young women I interviewed, including the young woman who met Thrush in June, described to me a range of similar experiences, from unwanted groping and kissing to wet kisses out of nowhere to hazy sexual encounters that played out under the influence of alcohol. Each woman described feeling differently about these experiences: scared, violated, ashamed, weirded out. I was — and am — angry.

Details of their stories suggest a pattern. All of the women were in their 20s at the time. They were relatively early in their careers compared to Thrush, who was the kind of seasoned journalist who would be good to know. At an event with alcohol, he made advances. Afterward, they (as I did) thought it best to stay on good terms with Thrush, whatever their feelings.

The irony included Thrush’s comments on Halperin’s downfall, which included a remark that young women don’t deserve to be “betrayed by little men who believe they are bigger than the mission.” According to McGann, that’s exactly what Thrush did with multiple young women during his tenure at Politico. She not only reports her own experiences with Thrush, she also includes stories from other women who felt preyed upon by Thrush. The stories combine into a pattern of alcohol followed by unwanted verbal and physical passes, albeit without any explicit threat to their employment.

McGann says that rejection may have carried costs anyway:

In the course of reporting this story, I was told by a male reporter who’d worked at Politico at the time that my instinct was right. He said that the day after that night at the bar, Thrush told him about the incident, except with the roles reversed. I had come onto him, the reporter said Thrush told him, and he had gently shut it down. …

Gradually, things in the office started to change for me. Certain men in the newsroom, I thought, started to look at me differently. Some of their comments seemed a bit too familiar or were outright offensive. I had a nagging sense that I just wasn’t as respected as I used to be.

When challenged, McGann reports that Thrush would claim that the memory was foggy for him, but offered vague apologies for the situation combined with protestations of his advocacy for women in the media. McGann got screen caps of one text exchange with Bianca Padró Ocasio which capture this pattern of response rather well.

All but one of the alleged incidents took place during Thrush’s employment at Politico, but the most recent occurred in June. Thrush acknowledged the latter incident in his statement to Vox:

“The June incident 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.”

NYT management took 64 minutes to suspend Thrush. They also said that Thrush will go into a “substance abuse program”:

The New York Times says it has suspended White House reporter Glenn Thrush while it investigates charges that he made unwanted advances on young women while he worked as a reporter at Politico. …

The Times, in a statement, said “the alleged behavior is very concerning” and not in keeping with the Times’ standards.” The newspaper said it supports Thrush’s decision to enter a substance abuse program.

Politico’s editor acknowledges having been present at the same incident, although she didn’t see it unfold:

POLITICO editor Carrie Budoff Brown told Vox that she saw Thrush and the woman talking in the bar but did not have any cause for concern. “I was disappointed in Glenn but had no reason to think that anything would progress beyond the bar that night,” she said, according to Vox. “And I am saddened to learn in the course of your reporting that it did.”

“Great journalism and great business require a great workplace. My colleagues and I have worked hard to nurture a newsroom where people are supportive, good to each other, and where mutual respect is the way of life. We have zero tolerance for anything else,” she said.

That lack of concern seems odd, especially in light of McGann’s description of Thrush’s behavior as an open secret. One young woman, McGann writes, was warned about Thrush last year before she started an internship from a Washington Post employee who hadn’t worked with Thrush, and then got another warning from a Roll Call employee. Others were warned about engaging Thrush on Twitter direct messaging. How did all of that common knowledge escape the management at Politico? That’s a question they’ll be asking themselves, undoubtedly.

Addendum: Despite the suspension by the NYT, MSNBC announced that they’re going to wait and see how to deal with their new contributor:

An MSNBC spokesperson tells The Hill the network will await the outcome of the New York Times investigation into sexual harassment allegations against White House correspondent Glenn Thrush before making any decisions on the journalist.

Thrush, 50, was signed by the network on May 1 as a contributor.

That’s fair enough, but don’t expect them to call on Thrush in the meantime.