Update: Michael Oreskes resigned from his position as NPR's news chief on Wednesday, in the wake of several sexual harassment allegations against him. Two women came forward in a story to The Washignton Post, saying Oreskes kissed them without their consent when he was The New York Times' Washington bureau chief in the 1990s.
In an internal memo to NPR employees, Orestes apologized. He said, ""I am deeply sorry to the people I hurt. My behavior was wrong and inexcusable, and I accept full responsibility."
This story was originally published on October 31, 2017.
Two women have accused NPR editor Michael Oreskes of sexual harassment, The Washington Post reports. Both alleged incidents occurred in the late 1990s when the women were journalists and Oreskes was the Washington bureau chief of The New York Times. NPR says he has been placed on leave indefinitely following the allegations.
The unidentified women have filed separate complaints that detail similar encounters in which Oreskes forcibly kissed them on the lips and stuck his tongue down their mouths. Both women say the sexual harassment occurred when they met with Oreskes to discuss job opportunities.
Oreskes is currently the senior vice president of news and editorial director at NPR. He previously held senior editing jobs at both the Times and the Associated Press.
The Post reports that NPR's attorney in charge of labor and employment matters spoke with both women about the allegations in mid-October and has sent them emails confirming that the organization is looking into the matter.
"We take these kinds of allegations very seriously. If a concern is raised, we review the matter promptly and take appropriate steps as warranted to assure a safe, comfortable and productive work environment. As a matter of policy, we do not comment about personnel matters," NPR said a statement released today.
Both women, who spoke to the Post anonymously, said they didn't report the sexual misconduct at the time because they thought they would be ignored and they didn't want to jeopardize future job prospects at the Times. They say they were inspired to come forward when they began following NPR's coverage of recent sexual harassment allegations, especially those against Harvey Weinstein.
"The idea that he’s in charge of that coverage is just so hypocritical to me," one woman told the Post. "It’s sickening. I want to say: 'You owe me . . . a public apology. You should recuse yourself [from NPR’s harassment coverage]."
An editor who worked with Oreskes at the Times in the late 1990s said that he focused a great deal of attention on a young woman who worked as a news aide. "It made [the woman] really nervous. There was excessive phone calling [by him to her] and messages that he wanted to meet her outside the office," the editor told the Post.
Jill Abramson, who was Oreskes' deputy at the time, has confirmed this account and said that she regrets not confronting him.
"If I had to do it again, I would have told him to knock it off," Abramson said. "I think I should have raised this with [the Times’ human resources department]. . . . Maybe confronting him would have somehow stopped him from doing it to another woman."
Both women told the Post that the alleged sexual harassment has had a lasting impact on their lives.