NPR News Chief Michael Oreskes Resigns Amid Sex Harassment Accusations

AP Photo/Michel Euler
Michael Oreskes speaks during the fifth annual Associated Press debate at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on Jan. 24, 2014. 

Michael Oreskes has resigned as chief of NPR’s newsroom following accusations of sexual harassment that dated back to the 1990s.

Oreskes said in a statement Wednesday that he was deeply sorry to the people he hurt. He said: “my behavior was wrong and inexcusable, and I accept full responsibility.”

He said he told Jarl Mohn, president and CEO of NPR, on Wednesday morning that he would step down. Earlier, Oreskes had been placed on leave and Mohn appointed Chris Turpin as the temporary news chief.

Two women had 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.

NPR reported Tuesday that Oreskes was formally rebuked following a separate incident two years ago where a female producer complained she was made to feel uncomfortable after a dinner in which Oreskes talked about sex and inquired about her personal life. The woman, Rebecca Hersher, said on the NPR report that “it undercut my confidence.”

NPR said in a statement on Tuesday: “We take these kinds of allegations very seriously. If a concern is raised, we review the matter promptly and take appropriate steps as warranted to assure a safe, comfortable and productive work environment. As a matter of policy, we do not comment about personnel matters.”

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.

Former Times editor Jill Abramson, Oreskes’ Washington deputy at the time of the alleged incidents, confirmed to the AP that Oreskes paid extraordinary attention to a woman who worked as a news aide at the Times. Abramson told the Post she wished she had either told Oreskes to change his behavior or brought concerns to human resources. Abramson, now a senior lecturer at Harvard University, confirmed what she told the Post but had no further comment when reached by the AP.

A spokeswoman for The Times, Danielle Rhoades Ha, said the news organization takes all allegations of sexual harassment seriously and is looking into the case. Oreskes was also at different times a political correspondent, metro editor and deputy managing editor at The Times, as well as executive editor of the Times-owned International Herald Tribune in Paris.