The New York Times’ Hypocrisy With Glenn Thrush’s Non-Firing Is Infuriating. It’s Also Dangerous.
The New York Times has been at the forefront of exposing sexual abusers, and providing a platform for survivors to share their voices. That’s where Dylan Farrow published her essay detailing the abuse perpetrated by her father, Woody Allen. They’ve published open letters from Salma Hayek, Amber Tamblyn, Lupita Nyong’o and more. Hell, they broke the stories on Harvey Weinstein and Louis CK. Just this week, they published an extensive exposé on the pervasive sexual harassment at a Ford factory in Chicago. Only a few hours ago, they also put out a fantastic episode of their podcast “The Daily” about the harassment those Chicago women face.
All of this and more makes it entirely disappointing to see how the New York Times is handling the sexual harassment happening within their doors.
Last month, Vox published a profile of White House correspondent Glenn Thrush’s history of disturbing behavior regarding interactions with young female journalists. Most followed the same pattern: heavy drinking with a group of colleagues, then making sure the crowd dwindled to just Thrush and a young woman. He would touch them inappropriately or try to kiss them. (The term “wet kiss”–gag–was repeatedly used.)
Some women found their encounters with Thrush more traumatic than others, but all talked about the fear and the fallout afterwards. No matter how they felt about the encounter, they felt a need to make sure he didn’t think they were upset. Laura McGann, who wrote the article, and also included her own firsthand experiences with Thrush, explains the fundamentally uneven power dynamic he has an established pattern of exploiting.
Thrush wasn’t my boss at Politico. He was a reporter and I was an editor. We were on different teams and hardly crossed each other’s paths. But he was an incredibly influential person in the newsroom and in political journalism, a world I was still trying to break into in a meaningful way at the time.
It wasn’t that Thrush was offering young women a quid pro quo deal, such as sex in exchange for mentorship. Thrush, just by his stature, put women in a position of feeling they had to suck up and move on from an uncomfortable encounter.
Thrush is a powerful, established media figure, and he is taking advantage of young 20-somethings whose careers rely on getting the professional attention of someone like him.
To make this all so much worse, he reportedly had a penchant for gossip, and would tell male coworkers about these encounters, only with the roles reversed, casting these women as unprofessional twits using sex to get ahead and himself as “the responsible grown-up who made sure nothing happened.”
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.
I started to think maybe I shouldn’t be in journalism if I couldn’t hang in a tough newsroom. I found myself on edge, nervous and anxious all the time. I started to believe I had brought this all on myself.
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.
So given The New York Times’ history of taking sexual harassment so very seriously, you might think they would have no tolerance for this kind of serial predation on young women in the journalism industry. After a month-long investigation, Dean Baquet, NYT’s executive editor said that Thrush “behaved in ways that we do not condone.”
Yes! Good! Of course he has! … Oh wait. Damn it, there’s more.
“While we believe that Glenn has acted offensively,” he continued, “we have decided that he does not deserve to be fired.”
Now, it’s not like Thrush will face no consequences. He reportedly will no longer be the paper’s White House correspondent, where he became so well known he was even regularly portrayed by Bobby Moynihan on SNL (above). Additionally, he and fellow NYT reporter Maggie Haberman were slated to write a book about Trump. Random House has now said that they are “planning to move forward with the book, but it will not be with Glenn Thrush attached.”
But that’s not enough. Again, the allegations against Thrush are not about his personal life behavior, unrelated to his workplace. He targeted and took advantage of young women journalists. He was an active detriment not just to their personal wellbeing, but to their career. And the fact that he did the same things to so many different women makes him the exact definition of a sexual predator.
The fact that the NYT doesn’t see this as a fireable offense undermines so much of the brilliant reporting they did this year. So many of the men they broke stories on faced real consequences They lost their reputations and their jobs, sending the message that we are entering an era when the abuse and silencing of women will not be tolerated. The message the Times is sending now is that it will be.
The women in McGann’s article describe relying on a whisper network of warning and being warned about Thrush’s behavior. By keeping Thrush employed, the Times is making sure all responsibility for allowing women in their industry to be safe, respected, and unexploited remains solely on the women themselves. I do not see how the Times can possibly claim to respect or care about women after declaring Thrush’s actions tolerable in any way.
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