Liberal media executive placed on ‘indefinite leave’ amid sex harassment probe

Prominent liberal media executive Don Hazen has been placed on indefinite leave after being accused of sexual harassment by six women, according to BuzzFeed News.

The Mother Jones publisher-turned-AlterNet founder Hazen has been an executive at left-leaning media outlets since the 1980s. He founded AlterNet in 1998. Now, five female journalists on his staff have accused the liberal executive of “inappropriately, discussing their sex lives, making unwanted advances, sending explicit emails, and showing them explicit photographs — including one of his naked, erect penis,” according to the report.

A sixth woman reporter also told BuzzFeed she was harassed by Hazen, but she did not work at AlterNet when the incident occurred.

“The Board of Directors of the Independent Media Institute takes these allegations extremely seriously. The organization has long been committed to maintaining a safe and equitable workplace. We have a grievance process outlined in the organization’s employee handbook; any complaints involving the executive director would go to the board chair, and no employee has initiated that process. We are now investigating the allegations in detail; in the meantime, executive director Don Hazen has been placed on indefinite leave, effective immediately,” AlterNet’s parent company said in a statement.

Hazen told BuzzFeed that he “lost track of some boundaries I needed to keep” and “had personal conversations with staff I should not have had, made comments I should not have made, and take responsibility for failure to recognize the implications of my position and age in supervising people at that period.”

The reported allegations date back to 2008 and occurred in San Francisco and New York.

According to its website, “AlterNet’s aim is to inspire action and advocacy on the environment, human rights and civil liberties, social justice, media, health care issues, and more.” A quick glance at the homepage reveals stories mocking Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, a variety of content attacking the recently signed tax reform and a story headlines, “Republicans are freaked out about the possibility of a Democratic wave in 2018.”

All of Hazen’s accusers gave their names to BuzzFeed and 11 people verified their accounts. Many of the accusers said that Hazen targeted young, inexperienced women.

“There was inappropriate touching — hugs and kisses on the cheek at the office,” one accuser told BuzzFeed. “He would be pointing, and somehow my boob was in the way of the direction he was aiming for.”

Another said Hazen told her she “looked just like” someone he saw online and then showed her a photo of a naked porn star. All five former AlterNet reporters said that Hazen would often request editorial meetings in his apartment where they were “encouraged to drink and eat edibles with him and his older male friends.”

“The sexism at the heart of this place was much more directed at women in ways big and small,” an accuser said. “It’s strange to think about now how much we tolerated.”

The women told BuzzFeed they were unaware of any human resources mechanism at AlterNet where they could formally complain. 

Brian Flood covers the media for Fox News. Follow him on Twitter at @briansflood.

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