Then there was the touching. Leon is a famously “touchy” guy. He doles out kisses—on cheeks, lips, foreheads—and dispenses hugs and grabs shoulders and pats legs. His friends (myself included) came to think little of it. But it made many women on staff exceedingly uncomfortable.
“Leon kissed me on the lips under the guise of congratulating me on a life event,” recalls Katherine Marsh, a writer of children’s books who was managing editor and deputy editor at the New Republic from 2005 to 2009. “I have been hugged and even cheek-kissed by plenty of male colleagues, but this raised my alarm bells. I told several family members at the time because it creeped me out. I felt uncomfortable around him for pretty much the rest of my time at TNR. I remember warning a new female colleague, Britt Peterson, not to be in a room alone with him.”
Marin Cogan, a freelance writer who was a reporter-researcher and assistant editor at the magazine from 2007 to 2009, notes, “Last week, I put ‘Leon kissed me’ into the search bar of my email, and to my surprise, four incidents popped up. I’d completely buried it. In all of these incidents”—none were on the mouth, Cogan clarifies—“I told co-workers, and we all just treated it as an awkward but not uncommon fact of working at TNR.”