Michael Oreskes has resigned as chief of NPR’s newsroom following accusations of sexual harassment that dated back to the 1990s.
“My behavior was wrong and inexcusable, and I accept full responsibility,” he said in a statement Wednesday. He said he was deeply sorry to the people he hurt.
He said he told Jarl Mohn, president and CEO of NPR, Wednesday morning that he would step down. Earlier, Oreskes had been placed on leave, and Mohn appointed Chris Turpin as the temporary NPR news chief.
Two women 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.
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.
As NPR’s David Folkenflik reported, Oreskes had also been accused of harassment by an employee at NPR.
“Some have asked me if it took published news reports for us to take action,” Mohn said. “The answer is that it did not. We have been acting. Some of the steps we took were visible and others weren’t. We have a process in place, and we followed that process.”
NPR’s Mohn said he wouldn’t give more details on the case because, he said, the only way to encourage staff members to come forward with issues was to keep the process confidential.
“When anyone, but particularly someone in power, violates a policy, acts in ways that are inappropriate, or takes steps that do not contribute to building a positive workplace, it breaks a trust,” he said.
Oreskes was a vice president and senior managing editor at the Associated Press from 2008 until he joined NPR in 2015. He held several jobs at the Times, whose spokeswoman Danielle Rhoades Ha said Tuesday that the news organization is looking into the case.
Oreskes was one of several media figures to face harassment allegations in recent weeks. 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.