NPR’s senior vice president of news Michael Oreskes stepped down on Wednesday amid allegations of sexual harassment in his past.
NPR CEO Jarl Mohn said he asked Oreskes “for his resignation because of inappropriate behavior.”
Oreskes admitted to wrongdoing in an internal memo obtained by CNN.
“I am deeply sorry to the people I hurt. My behavior was wrong and inexcusable, and I accept full responsibility,” Oreskes wrote.
“To my colleagues, I am grateful for every minute I’ve had to work with each of you,” he wrote. “NPR has an important job to do. Public radio matters so much and I will always be your supporter.”
Oreskes is a nationally recognized leader in the journalism profession. Before joining NPR in 2015, he was a vice president and senior managing editor at the Associated Press.
His departure is the latest example of the “Weinstein effect” — with newfound attention on the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace. In the four weeks since The New York Times published its investigation into movie mogul Harvey Weinstein’s misconduct, prominent men in other industries have also come under scrutiny.
Oreskes came under pressure to step down after The Washington Post reported that he allegedly made unwanted sexual advances toward two journalists who were seeking jobs at The New York Times two decades ago.
At least one of the accusers came forward in the wake of the Weinstein scandal.
Both accusers told the Post that Oreskes unexpectedly kissed them during career-oriented business meetings while he was working as the Times’ Washington bureau chief.
After the Post story came out, a third accuser, who currently works at NPR, said she filed a complaint about him to NPR’s human resources department in October 2015, according to NPR’s own reporting. The employee’s complaint said Oreskes “hijacked a career counseling session into a three-hour-long dinner that delved into deeply personal territory” and included mentions of sex with a former girlfriend.
The network, at the time, rebuked Oreskes and informed other executives at the company after the complaint was filed, according to NPR’s reporting.
After the Post story was published on Tuesday, NPR placed Oreskes on “administrative leave.”
In a Wednesday morning memo to staff, hours before Oreskes stepped down, NPR CEO Jarl Mohn stressed that the company was taking the allegations seriously.
“I’m writing to share that I’ve asked Vice President of News Programming and Operations Chris Turpin to take on interim leadership of the newsroom,” Mohn said. “Starting today, Chris will serve in the capacity of the Senior Vice President of News for NPR and oversee both strategic direction and day to day operations related to our journalism.”
Mohn also urged staff to contact human resources, the legal department, or his office directly “if you believe you have experienced or are aware of any incidence of harassment or other inappropriate behavior.”