NPR CEO to staff: ‘I let you down’

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Mark Vogelzang/Maine Public Broadcasting Network

Mohn

NPR CEO Jarl Mohn apologized to staff Thursday for his handling of sexual harassment allegations against former news chief Michael Oreskes.

“I let you down,” Mohn wrote in a memo to staff Thursday obtained by Current and confirmed by NPR. “I should have acted faster and more decisively.”

Mohn said he is hiring an outside law firm to “conduct a review of how we handled the matter.”

In the memo, Mohn also announced an all-staff meeting scheduled for noon Friday. “I want to hear from you how we can move forward, together,” Mohn said.

Mohn asked for Oreskes’ resignation Wednesday following a Washington Post report about allegations of sexual harassment by Oreskes during his tenure at the New York Times in the 1990s.

In an interview on All Things Considered Wednesday, Mohn said he first learned of an allegation against Oreskes in the fall of 2015, when NPR staffer Rebecca Hersher complained about Oreskes’ behavior during a conversation over dinner. In October 2016, according to Mohn, NPR learned of a complaint of sexual harassment from when Oreskes was with the Times. Mohn said that he was informed last month about another allegation when Oreskes was at the Times.

“If that is the sequence, if you knew of these multiple allegations, did it cross your mind that leaving Mike in his job might put other women, might put our colleagues at risk?” asked ATC host Mary Louise Kelly.

“We investigated,” Mohn said. “We did it immediately. We involved our HR department. We involved our general counsel. We sat with Mike. We confronted him about that situation and put him on notice that this could not occur.”

“I’m not aware of anything that he’s done or that happened that bears any resemblance to those issues that occurred 20 years ago while he was at The New York Times,” Mohn said. Kelly added that NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik said he had spoken with five other women “alleging inappropriate conduct” by Oreskes.

When asked whether the Post’s reporting had prompted NPR to put Oreskes on leave Tuesday, Mohn said he made the decision because of a new case in which a current female employee had an uncomfortable conversation with Oreskes.