Longtime NPR host John Hockenberry has been accused of sexual harassment by women he worked with while hosting The Takeaway.
Author Suki Kim took it upon herself to do some investigative reporting of her own after her own experience with Hockenberry as a guest of his show in 2014. In the story she wrote for The Cut, she explains how she went from dismissing her interactions with the host to interviewing other women with the same experiences. At first, she believed the harassment she experienced might be an anomaly. "It took only a few phone calls before I found out that it wasn’t," wrote Kim. While each report of sexual harassment and assault comes as a shock to the general public, Kim writes that for the women she interviewed, it was just a matter of time.
Kim categorizes the claims of the women she spoke to into two categories: low- to mid-level producers, assistants, and interns who received unwelcome sexual overtures and women of color of co-hosted The Takeaway who felt bullied and undermined by Hockenberry. Two themes persisted as multiple women reported him forcibly kissing them as well as inappropriate exchanges over social media.
Her interactions with Hockenberry were largely over email. After coming onto the show as a guest, they met up twice to discuss her work and future ideas. Soon his emails became progressively less professional and more personal. Though married with five kids, he would suggest they go on dates. One email subject line read, "Need another dose of you." Kim recounts receiving eight emails from him over the course of the next eight months. Even though she would never reply, he would still reach out to her.
Since the accusations have been made, Hockenberry has issued a statement saying that horrifies him that people felt uncomfortable with his behavior. "I’ve always had a reputation for being tough, and certainly I’ve been rude, aggressive and impolite. Looking back, my behavior was not always appropriate and I’m sorry," the statement published by New York Magazine reads. "It horrifies me that I made the talented and driven people I worked with feel uncomfortable, and that the stress around putting together a great show was made worse by my behavior. Having to deal with my own physical limitations has given me an understanding of powerlessness, and I should have been more aware of how the power I wielded over others, coupled with inappropriate comments and communications, could be construed. I have no excuses."
The Takeaway shared a statement on Twitter about its former host saying that they "take these allegations extremely seriously and are very disturbed by this report." They went on to assure readers that they plan to report this story as they would any other.
This instance of sexual harassment has an element that is unique compared to many of the other accusations that have come out about men in powerful positions. What recourse is there? He has already left his job. Kim reached out to Hockenberry when she was writing her story relaying that he said he was "currently searching for employment."
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