AlterNet is a progressive news site that has been around since 1997. Thursday Buzzfeed published a piece in which five different women accused AlterNet executive editor Don Hazen of sexual harassment. When Buzzfeed went to the nonprofit that runs AlterNet for comment, the organization’s board of directors announced Hazen was being placed on indefinite suspension while an investigation into the accusations was conducted.
The allegations range from inappropriate comments in the workplace to some touching and kissing by Hazen. He has responded to Buzzfeed saying, “I deny most of the allegations as have been presented to me by Buzzfeed, and I believe that others have been mischaracterized.” Buzzfeed claims it has spoken with 11 additional people and seen contemporaneous chat messages that back up the claims.
Kristen Gwynne, who worked at AlterNet in New York from 2011 to 2013 and is now a freelance reporter, met Hazen while she was covering a protest for a class as a journalism student.
“I had no connections. I didn’t know anybody. He said, ‘Send it to me, and I’ll publish it,’” Gwynne said about the story she was working on. Shortly after, Hazen gave her an internship, then a full-time job. The work covered her rent, bills, and student loan payments — but she said his behavior toward her quickly became harassment.
“There was inappropriate touching — hugs and kisses on the cheek at the office,” she said. “He would be pointing, and somehow my boob was in the way of the direction he was aiming for.” Hazen said if this “possibly happened, it was purely accidental.”
Gwynne says that during one lunch meeting Hazen mentioned he’d recently seen a picture of someone who looked like her online. He then showed her a picture of a nude porn star. Hazen’s penchant for nude pictures comes up in another story told by a different accuser:
Tana Ganeva, a former AlterNet employee, worked for the site first as an editorial assistant and then in other editing roles in San Francisco, from February 2008 to June 2011, before becoming its managing editor, based in New York, until February 2016…
Ganeva said Hazen would take photographs and videos of her at work, without her explicit consent, and comment on her “perfect legs” and other parts of her body. He’d also remark when she gained or lost weight…
At one one-on-one meeting over editorial matters in winter 2011, Ganeva said Hazen started showing her a personal collection of printed photographs from the 1970s and 1980s, “primarily of young women he said he had dated,” she said. Then he handed her a black and white photograph of his erect penis, which she said he called “artistic.”
“I took the photo the way one does when someone hands you something and you haven’t processed what it is, looked at the picture of his erect penis, then handed it back to him,” she said. “I don’t think I said anything. It was sort of an arty photo, I guess, but I really wasn’t happy to have an image of my boss’s erect dick emblazoned in my brain.”
So Hazen didn’t actually drop his pants but he artistically accomplished the same type of exposure using the photograph. That would be creepy on a date but at an editorial meeting in his apartment, this really is a step toward what Louis C.K. and Harvey Weinstein have been accused of doing.
Again, the piece does contain Hazen’s partial denial. He told Buzzfeed, “In the atmosphere of lots of discussion about editorial topics like sex and drugs, I lost track of some boundaries I needed to keep.” He continued, “I had personal conversations with staff I should not have had, made comments I should not have made, and take responsibility for failure to recognize the implications of my position and age in supervising people at that period.” So take that for what it’s worth.