Ever since the media industry exploded with accusations of sexual harassment, heads have been rolling. Some of the top names in the business have seen their brands crash and burn overnight. No trial, just “credible accusations.”
Many consumers seemed to cheer media companies’ fast action, while others have wondered, publicly and privately, whether a line no longer exists between accusations and the practice of hearing both sides of a story before taking action. It’s a question Garrison Keillor has been asking since he was ousted from MPR. Even Bill O’Reilly, whose former employer paid millions to settle accusations, continues to maintain his innocence.
Beneath the misgivings and cries of “unfair” or “untrue,” there’s been another question: who will be the first accused sent packing to later return to the job that sent them on their way? Now, in light of the news that New York Times’ star reporter Glenn Thrush would return to work — albeit not on his former beat — we know the answer to that question.
The Times released a statement detailing its findings surrounding an internal investigation as well as its thoughts regarding 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 that Thrush would be suspended for two months and removed from his former White House beat. In the meantime, he’ll receive “training” to help “improve his conduct” while also undergoing counseling as well as rehab. The Times statement also said Thrush would be reinstated after the suspension.
Some weren’t pleased with the Times’ decision. To this, the newspaper 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 are not ready for reasonable. Consumer reaction to this issue is bound to be split. Will the Times deal with serious blowback, especially with its primary customer base? That’s a question that’ll be answered within the coming weeks.
In the meantime, it’ll be interesting to see if this situation establishes a precedent for other such cases where a prominent media personality is challenged by credible reports of “offensive” behavior.