The New York Times has suspended its star White House reporter Glenn Thrush in response to allegations of sexual misconduct published by Vox. The Times will assign him to a new beat when he returns, executive editor Dean Baquet announced on Wednesday.
Thrush will also receive “training designed to improve his workplace conduct,” according to the email sent to staff by Baquet. A spokesperson declined to elaborate on what the training will involve.
The decision is a response to a story I wrote this November about Thrush’s conduct over the past five years. I described how Thrush, 50, has positioned himself as a champion of women in journalism, but has also targeted young women, including me, at industry functions:
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.
I also wrote about how Thrush liked to talk about young women with male colleagues in the Politico office, describing how he said he had to bat them away after they came onto him. He told this same story many times, a source said, including about me.
Thrush says he remembers the personal incident I described differently, and he denies he disparaged me in the newsroom. He also offered conciliatory words for other women. “I apologize to any woman who felt uncomfortable in my presence, and for any situation where I behaved inappropriately,” Thrush wrote. “Any behavior that makes a woman feel disrespected or uncomfortable is unacceptable.”
The article attempted to show how the actions of a powerful man affect women at work, well after the specific incident. I wrote how the rumor he started seeped into the newsroom and changed how men treated me.
Another woman told me how powerless she felt after an unwanted encounter with him: “I hate feeling obligated to make him think I think everything is fine,” she said. “It’s been this thing hanging over me. I feel like I have to be nice to this person just because he knows people.”
Thrush joins a laundry list of other powerful men in media who’ve recently been accused of sexual misconduct or sexual harassment. Thrush’s is the first prominent case where the accused did not lose his job. Baquet told Times staff that the company does not condone Thrush’s behavior but that they do not think it warrants firing him, either.
Thrush is currently on a two-month unpaid suspension. The Times suspended him in November pending an investigation. He’ll be able to return in January.
“Each case has to be evaluated based on individual circumstances,” Baquet wrote. “We believe this is an appropriate response to Glenn’s situation.”
Baquet is tapping into the broader question of what to do with men who “aren’t Weinstein,” as many have come to put it. These men aren’t accused of rape, like movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, but they’ve also done something terrible to a colleague (or colleagues) in the industry or a co-worker in the office.
We know what to do when the accusations are monstrous. But what do we do when accusations are bad, or even terrible, but fall below the bar set by the worst of the worst? Thrush is an early test.
Read Baquet’s full statement:
We have completed our investigation into Glenn Thrush’s behavior, which included dozens of interviews with people both inside and outside the newsroom. We found that Glenn has behaved in ways that we do not condone.
While we believe that Glenn has acted offensively, we have decided that he does not deserve to be fired. Instead, we have suspended him for two months and removed him from the White House beat. He will receive training designed to improve his workplace conduct. In addition, Glenn is undergoing counseling and substance abuse rehabilitation on his own. We will reinstate him as a reporter on a new beat upon his return.
We understand that our colleagues and the public at large are grappling with what constitutes sexually offensive behavior in the workplace and what consequences are appropriate. It is an important debate with far-reaching consequences that we helped spark with our journalism and that we’ve been reflecting on internally as well.
Each case has to be evaluated based on individual circumstances. We believe this is an appropriate response to Glenn’s situation.
The Times is committed not only to our leading coverage of this issue but also to ensuring that we provide a working environment where all of our colleagues feel respected, safe and supported.
— Dean Baquet