The head of National Public Radio’s news department was placed on leave Tuesday after he was accused of sexual harassment by two women who claimed he made unwanted advances toward them while he worked at the New York Times nearly 20 years ago.
Both women claimed Michael Oreskes kissed them after they had approached him about working at the Times in the late 1990s, when Oreskes was the paper’s Washington bureau chief.
One of the women said that she confronted Oreskes over lunch at Washington, D.C.’s Union Station.
“I looked him in the eye, and I said: ‘You kissed me, and it was totally inappropriate. That’s not the way I want to get ahead in this business,’” the woman said. “His jaw dropped. He said: ‘I was overcome with passion. I couldn’t help myself.’”
Jill Abramson, the Times’ former executive editor, who was Oreskes’ deputy in the Washington bureau at the time, recalled that he also showed special interest in a woman who worked as a news aide.
“If I had to do it again, I would have told him to knock it off,” she told the Post. “Maybe confronting him would have somehow stopped him from doing it to another woman.”
The allegations against Oreskes were first reported by The Washington Post Tuesday.
When asked if Oreskes’ conduct had drawn complaints at the Times, a spokesperson said the paper “takes all allegations of sexual harassment seriously and we are looking into it.”
Both women told the Post that they were motivated to come forward by NPR’s coverage of sexual misconduct allegations against movie producer Harvey Weinstein, political journalist Mark Halperin and other men prominent in their industries.
“The idea that he’s in charge of that coverage is just so hypocritical to me,” one of the women said. “It’s sickening. I want to say: ‘You owe me ... a public apology.’”