The New York Times Diminished the #MeToo Movement to Protect One of Their Own
by Ryan Monceaux
The New York Times lunged into damage control when reporter Glenn Thrush faced accusations of sexual assault from four women. In an ironic twist, one of the media pioneers of the #MeToo movement was forced to confront their own in-house pervert.
Times leadership, famous for outing and examining the deviant actions of powerful men, determined they needed to protect Thrush, their precious White House scribe. To that end, Times leadership behaved the same way as those they accused: they scrambled, they protected, and they downplayed the accusations after their internal probe.
Just before Thanksgiving, the lecherous Thrush was suspended for possible “inappropriate sexual behavior.” The accusations included groping, unwanted kissing, and using his stature to silence his victims and to hurt their careers. Before being unmasked as a creep, Thrush’s infamy came from when he acknowledged being a hack by seeking Clinton campaign approval for an article.
The Times conducted a halfhearted investigation into the claims against Thrush. Appointed to arbitrate the matter was Charlotte Behrendt, a newsroom lawyer. Once completed, her findings were reviewed by a panel of NYT editors. Thrush’s suspension was extended and he was taken off of the White House beat. Behrendt determined his actions were ill-advised but did not warrant termination. He’d been a bad boy but not a very bad boy.
“While we believe that Glenn has acted offensively, we have decided that he does not deserve to be fired,” said Dean Baquet, Executive Editor. “We believe this is an appropriate response to Glenn’s situation.”
The Times trumpeted their verdict as nuanced but their statement came across as phony. In effect, they admitted to Thrush’s wrongdoing as no one disputed any of the allegations. Thrush merely “acted offensively” when he groped, made unwanted advances, and used his power to buy silence.
Three days after the Thrush decision, the hypocrisy became more pronounced after an exclusive on “old-school sexual harassment” at Vice. The Times accused men there of unwanted kissing, groping, and pressuring women – virtually identical to what Thrush tacitly acknowledged committing himself. The article decried “an ethos of male entitlement” at Vice after The Times had just decreed those behaviors really weren’t so bad.
Before the Thrush accusations, The New York Times claimed that they are “at the forefront of a national conversation about sexual assault.” After diminishing Thrush’s actions, the Times now finds itself on the other side of that conversation.
FTR, New York Times basically can not lead on the coverage of this issue anymore. Every story you publish on the issue will be met, rightly, with the question “what about Glenn Thrush?” The fact is Thrush’s continued employment was untenable because of NYT coverage of issue. https://t.co/FrNLrCk3S9
— Armando (@armandodkos) December 20, 2017
This response makes a farce of all the fantastic reporting the Times has done on sexual assault. Preying on women in positions of less power only matters at *those* places/industries – not here. https://t.co/wxYLWsvN0k
— Amy Siskind (@Amy_Siskind) December 20, 2017
Why Did The Narrative Change for Glenn Thrush?
Since the Harvey Weinstein bombshell, the New York Times has kept a running tally of the dozens of men taken down in the #MeToo era. In fact, the Times had won praise for their solemn coverage of sexual assault. But in announcing Thrush’s initial suspension, the Times took a different tact. The paper chose to highlight frivolity in that November 20th story:
Mr. Thrush, 50, became so well known that he was portrayed several times on “Saturday Night Live” as a foil to Sean Spicer, the former White House press secretary. Bobby Moynihan, a cast member on the show for nine seasons, portrayed Mr. Thrush, while Mr. Spicer was played by the film and television star Melissa McCarthy.
Why would a story about sexual harassment include a paragraph normalizing the perpetrator? Following the weighty reporting on Weinstein, Franken, and others, the Times chose to downplay the accusations against Thrush with trivial nonsense. In over 100 sexual harassment items printed in the Times from Weinstein to Thrush, no other story attempted to weaken the #MeToo momentum or to humanize the accused.
The change in tone, combined with his token punishment, proves that the New York Times afforded Thrush preferential treatment. Two days after sanctioning Thrush, The Times “responded” to reader comments with more cover-up for their valued colleague. Readers must conclude that the punishment for groping and silencing sexual assault victims is demotion at The New York Times.
Glenn Thrush, who kissed women without their consent and spread career-killing rumors about them, remains @nytimes' golden boy, will be "punished" by inflicting him on a different set of women. https://t.co/wxeIp5Bnew
— Erica C. Barnett (@ericacbarnett) December 20, 2017
To recap: A prominent reporter was accused of serious misconduct and quickly suspended. His employer announced the suspension while simultaneously celebrating his recent television fame. A string of coworkers delved into the accusations: one colleague investigated, another group reviewed the findings, and an administrator notified the accused of the outcome. No outsider was involved and the findings were promptly buried in the paper and online.
That’s a highly suspect process and a convenient outcome for Glenn Thrush. More importantly, it’s a slap in the face to the women he demeaned.
Updated on December 24, 2017.