Ever since the media industry exploded with accusations of sexual harassment, heads have been rolling. Some of the top names in the business saw their brands crash and burn overnight, no trial, just “credible accusations.”
Most consumers seemed to cheer the fast action by media companies, while others stood looking on, wondering what we have become. Where is the line between credible accusations and hearing both sides before taking action, they wondered. It’s a question Garrison Keillor has been asking ever since he was ousted from MPR, and it’s a question some others are asking, publicly and privately. Even Bill O’Reilly, whose former employer paid millions to settle accusations continues to maintain his innocence.
Beneath the misgivings and shouts of “unfair” or “untrue,” there’s been another question: Who will be the first accused person sent packing to return to the job that sent them on their way? Now, we know. The answer to that question is Glenn Thrush, a star reporter for the New York Times, who will soon return to work, albeit not on his former beat.
The Times released a statement detailing its findings in an internal investigation as well as its thoughts on how and when Thrush should be reinstated:
“…our investigation into Glenn Thrush’s behavior included dozens of interviews with people both inside and outside the newsroom… We found that Glenn has behaved in ways we do not condone. While we believe Glenn acted offensively, we have decided he does not deserve to be fired…”
The statement went on to say Thrush would be suspended for two months and removed from his former White House beat. In the meantime, he will receive “training” to help “improve his conduct” while also undergoing counseling as well as rehab. The Times statement said Thrush would be reinstated after the suspension.
Some were not pleased with the decision, challenging the Times’ move in this case. To this, the Times responded: “We understand that our colleagues and the public at large are grappling with what constitutes sexually offensive behavior… and what consequences are appropriate… It is an important debate… Each case has to be evaluated based on individual circumstances…”
While the statement seems reasonable on the surface, this situation is still very raw, and many people are not ready to be reasonable. Consumer reaction to this situation is bound to be split on this issue. Will the Times deal with serious blowback, especially with its primary customer base? That’s a question that will be answered in the coming weeks.
In the meantime, it will be interesting to see if this situation creates a precedent for other such cases where a prominent media personality is challenged by credible reports of “offensive” behavior.
Ronn Torossian is the Founder and CEO of the New York based public relations firm 5WPR: one of the 20 largest PR Firms in the United States.