A bombshell report Monday links former ABC, NBC and NPR journalist John Hockenberry to accusations of sexual harassment and creating a hostile work environment, months after he was forced out of radio station WNYC in New York City.
According to the report from WNYC, which it claims senior management had no oversight in writing, a combination of sexual harassment complaints, poor performance during live interviews and the cultivation of a hostile work environment prompted the public radio network to opt out of renewing the 61-year-old’s contract in 2017. The Emmy and Peabody award-winner is now the latest in a growing number of public radio figures ousted from their jobs.
Fans and employees alike were scratching their heads when his exit from the long-running show "The Takeaway," which he'd hosted for almost a decade, was announced with little explanation. As previously reported, author Suki Kim, who appeared on the show, accused Hockenberry, who spoke openly about being paraplegic, of unwanted sexual advances and sending her suggestive emails. Even after she stopped responding, he reportedly continued to make contact. This eventually led to a formal complaint to the network that came around the time of Hockenberry's contract renewal.
Kim posted an article detailing her experience in The Cut, where more women came forward with allegations against Hockenberry.
"It horrifies me that I made the talented and driven people I worked with feel uncomfortable, and that the stress around putting together a great show was made worse by my behavior," Hockenberry said in a statement.
However, in the new report from WNYC, it seems that the allegations of harassment were just the final straw. Several employees who chose to remain anonymous claimed Hockenberry created a hostile work environment with staffers, particularly women. People were often crying after one-on-one meetings with him and it was said he was not shy about verbally ridiculing someone if he felt his or her job performance was lacking.
Around the same time, staffers reported he would show up late and underprepared for interviews. When the time came to renew his contract, this swirl of negativity and unprofessionalism reportedly contributed to the network's decision against his renewal.
Hockenberry is just the latest in a line of ousters from public radio. As previously reported, NPR’s Chief Editor, Michael Oreskes, recently resigned in the midst of sexual harassment allegations of his own along with Chief News Editor David Sweeney. Last week, famed "A Prairie Home Companion" host Garrison Keillor was let go from Minnesota Public Radio for the same reason.
"I am deeply disturbed by allegations reported recently in the media against the former host of The Takeaway, John Hockenberry,” said Laura Walker, president and CEO of New York Public Radio (NYPR), which owns WNYC, in a statement.
Walker went on to explain that the allegations NYPR knew about were investigated thoroughly, but admitted that some of the issues were discovered in the media, along with everyone else.
"The offensive conduct as reported would clearly violate NYPR's standards and workplace practices. As CEO, I deeply regret that our culture and protocols did not work as they should, such that the full nature and extent of the allegations are just now coming to light," Walker concluded. "I apologize, we can do better, and I give our employees and the entire NYPR community my word that the senior team and I will do our utmost to ensure that NYPR will safeguard all employees, provide an equitable, respectful, inclusive and harassment-free environment, and take prompt action when necessary."