Report: Vice Media Settled with 4 Women Over Sexual Harassment, Defamation
Executives at Vice Media have been accused of numerous accounts of sexual harassment and defamation. According to a new exposé published in The New York Times, the nearly $6 billion dollar global media company has been responsible for four settlements “involving allegations of sexual harassment or defamation against Vice employees, including its current president.”
In the report, sources describe a “‘boys club’ culture” at Vice that “fostered inappropriate behavior that permeated throughout the company,” including numerous accounts of unwanted advances from male coworkers. Last year, Vice’s president Andrew Creighton paid $135,000 in a settlement with a former employee who “claimed that she was fired after she rejected an intimate relationship with him.” Another settlement earlier this year came from a former employee who was discriminated against after beginning a sexual relationship with her supervisor, former head of Vice News Jason Monica, who was fired by the company last month.
Other settlements include victims of sexual harassment, racial, and gender discrimination in Vice’s London office, where Vice producer Rhys James has been accused of making racist and sexist statements to a former journalist with the company. “Among Ms. Fuertes-Knight’s claims were that a Vice producer, Rhys James, had made racist and sexist statements to her, including asking about the color of her nipples and whether she slept with black men. Ms. Fuertes-Knight, who is of mixed race, is bound by a confidentiality agreement and declined to comment.”
In a statement from Vice posted to their website Saturday morning, co-founders Suroosh Alvi and Shane Smith note that they have “failed as a company to create a safe and inclusive workplace where everyone, especially women, can feel respected and thrive. Cultural elements from our past, dysfunction and mismanagement were allowed to flourish unchecked.” The statement continues:
VICE began 23 years ago as a punk magazine exploring the subversive counterculture that our writers, our readers and we were a part of. We were vehemently anti-censorship, anti-establishment and apolitical, and we wanted to build a company based on egalitarian principles.
Ten years ago, we set out on a new journey, moving beyond covering just streetwear, drugs, and sex, to news and social justice issues. Over the last decade, we have severed ties with colleagues who espoused misogynistic and extremist ideologies, and evolved VICE from a publication with a tiny staff to a media company employing thousands of the most talented creative minds all over the world.
Throughout our history, we’ve undergone seismic change and reinvention, but we did not keep pace with that growth by putting into place the internal policies and structures that would prevent disparate treatment toward some of our employees.
Such changes include the recent formation of a Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Board including feminist activist Gloria Steinem, as well as the lawyer Roberta Kaplan and a new head of human resources. The company also recently fired three employees for “behavior inconsistent with its values,” and “forbade romantic relationships between supervisors and their employees”—a known source of such allegations in the past, according to several current and former employees who spoke with the Times.
“We can no longer be a part of the problem—particularly if, as journalists and storytellers, we want to investigate and cover the many injustices in the world today,” the statement continues. “No matter your gender, race, ethnicity or sexual orientation, at VICE, we will listen to and amplify your stories, and we will make this a company in which we can all take pride.”