Vice Media, the latest company in the entertainment industry hit with sexual harassment allegations, has vowed to change its ways after a detailed investigation by the New York Times revealed that it allegedly paid out settlements for alleged sexual harassment or defamation complaints from former employees, and about 25 other women allegedly saw or encountered sexual misconduct at the firm.
The alleged misconduct included advances such as “unwanted kisses, groping, lewd remarks and propositions for sex,” according to the Times.
In one alleged settlement, Vice supposedly paid $135,000 to a woman who claimed that she was terminated after she declined an intimate relationship with the company president.
The Times says it spoke with 100-plus current or ex-Vice employees in putting together the report.
In October, the Times was the first news outlet that revealed the alleged longtime pattern of sexual misconduct by movie mogul Harvey Weinstein which opened the floodgates for women to come forward with sexual abuse allegations about many others in the media and entertainment industries as well as in the political and sports world.
Amidst the sexual harassment scandals that engulfed her employer, Fox News Channel/Fox Business Channel host Melissa Francis correctly predicted last April that other media industry outlets and luminaries would get their turn to receive scrutiny.
The Times seemed to suggest that the difference at Vice, which, among other ventures, operates its own left-leaning, social justice-oriented cable channel and produces news content and trendy documentaries for HBO, is that it is not a legacy or old-school media outlet.
“But as Vice Media has built itself from a fringe Canadian magazine into a nearly $6 billion global media company, its boundary-pushing culture created a workplace that was degrading and uncomfortable for women, current and former employees say…The settlements and the many episodes of harassment the women described depict a top-down ethos of male entitlement at Vice, where women said they felt like just another party favor at an organization where partying often was an extension of the job…What stands out about the women’s accounts… is that the allegations involve men in their 20s, 30s and 40s who came of age long after workplace harassment was not only taboo but outlawed.”
In a statement after the Times published its in-depth article, Vice co-founders Shane Smith and Suroosh Alvi admitted that internal dysfunction and mismanagement on their watch, including a “detrimental boy’s club culture,” led to inappropriate behavior at Vice.
In addition to apologizing to present and past employees and expressing regret for perpetuating sexism and failing to forge an inclusive and safe workplace, the founders also outlined some steps they are taking to remedy the situation. These include hiring a new HR officer, creating a diversity/inclusion advisory board, committing to pay parity, and clarifying sexual harassment policies and reporting procedures. The Times claims that Vice has also banned romantic relationships between supervisors and subordinates.
Disney holds an 18 percent ownership interest in Vice.
In recent weeks, sexual harassment allegations have emerged about MSNBC host Chris Matthews and prominent journalists Ryan Lizza and Tavis Smiley, among many others previously, including probably most notably NBC Today show host Matt Lauer. As many have recalled, Lauer perhaps ironically grilled Bill O’Reilly in September about somewhat similar accusations that led to his ouster from Fox News.