NPR chief resigns after sex harassment accusations

Michael Oreskes of NPR speaks in Washington in June 2017
Michael Oreskes speaks during the rededication of the Journalists Memorial at the Newseum in Washington in June 2017.
Saul Loeb | AFP/Getty Images

Updated: 11:14 a.m. 11/1/17 | Published: 6:43 p.m. 10/31/17

Michael Oreskes has resigned as chief of NPR's newsroom following accusations of sexual harassment that dated back to the 1990s.

Oreskes said in a statement Wednesday that he was deeply sorry to the people he hurt. He said: "my behavior was wrong and inexcusable, and I accept full responsibility."

He said he told Jarl Mohn, president and CEO of NPR, on Wednesday morning that he would step down. Earlier, Oreskes had been placed on leave and Mohn appointed Chris Turpin as the temporary news chief.

Two women had accused Oreskes of suddenly kissing them when they were discussing job prospects with him in the 1990s, when he was Washington bureau chief of The New York Times.

The women formally complained to NPR and told their stories to The Washington Post, speaking on condition of anonymity. Oreskes, vice president of news and editorial director at NPR, did not immediately return messages seeking comment.

Oreskes was a vice president and senior managing editor at The Associated Press from 2008 until he joined NPR in 2015.

An NPR spokeswoman, Isabel Lara, said Oreskes had been placed on leave. NPR said in a statement on Tuesday: "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."

The women told the Post that they had met with Oreskes to talk about job prospects, while he ran the Times' Washington bureau, when he unexpectedly kissed them and stuck his tongue in their mouths.

Former Times editor Jill Abramson, Oreskes' Washington deputy at the time of the alleged incidents, confirmed to the AP that Oreskes paid extraordinary attention to a woman who worked as a news aide at the Times. Abramson told the Post she wished she had either told Oreskes to change his behavior or brought concerns to human resources. Abramson, now a senior lecturer at Harvard University, confirmed what she told the Post but had no further comment when reached by the AP.

A spokeswoman for The Times, Danielle Rhoades Ha, said the news organization takes all allegations of sexual harassment seriously and is looking into the case. Oreskes was also at different times a political correspondent, metro editor and deputy managing editor at The Times, as well as executive editor of the Times-owned International Herald Tribune in Paris.

When asked for comment, AP spokeswoman Lauren Easton said the AP does not provide information on personnel matters.

"The Associated Press takes any kind of harassment allegation very seriously," Easton said. "If a report is made, it is promptly investigated and appropriate action is taken. The AP is committed to maintaining a safe working environment and does not tolerate harassment of any kind."

Oreskes is the latest media figure to face harassment allegations. NBC News on Monday fired political contributor Mark Halperin following allegations of inappropriate advances by women when he worked at ABC. The president and publisher of the New Republic, Hamilton Fish, has been placed on a leave of absence following charges against him, and Leon Wieseltier, contributing editor at The Atlantic, was dropped after numerous women said they had been sexually harassed by him.