2ND UPDATE, 5:40 PM: Hamilton Fish has resigned as president and publisher of The New Republic amid allegations of harassment and inappropriate behavior with women who reported to them. The magazine’s owner, Win McCormack, broke the news in a memo to staffers,. The resignation comes days after Fish was asked to take a leave of absence pending an investigation, and McCormack said in his memo that the probe will continue, writing: “This won’t mean an end to the inquiry we’ve commissioned, as we want to understand everyone’s experiences in full, both on their own terms and for the purpose of looking ahead. … I’d like to express my deep appreciation to everyone who has contributed or will.”
UPDATED, 8:30 PM Monday: Clarifies the relationship between Hamilton Fish and The Nation and The Nation Institute, below. The fallout continues in the wake of ongoing allegations of sexual harassment and assault by former Weinstein Company co-chief Harvey Weinstein. As if to underscore the fact that the incidents are not circumscribed by any particular industry or political ideology, several high-profile media figures – notably Hamilton Fish, whose liberal bona fides include helping to rescue The Nation newsmagazine, documentary film producing (Food Chains, Hotel Terminus) and heading the Human Rights Watch Film Festival – are being called to account for alleged harassment and inappropriate behavior with women who reported to them.
In a memo yesterday to the staff of The New Republic, one of the country’s oldest liberal-left publications, owner Win McCormack wrote that he had commissioned an independent investigation into several complaints leveled against Fish by female employees. McCormack, a liberal activist and entrepreneur, bought the foundering magazine last year and recruited Fish as publisher.
“I have been made aware that a number of employees have come forward in the last few days to express concern about certain workplace interactions that have created an uncomfortable environment for them,” McCormack wrote. “As I understand them, these concerns relate specifically to interactions between Ham Fish and a number of women employees. I appreciate the candor our employees have displayed in coming forward with their concerns, and I take the concerns very seriously.”
In response, McCormack said he had placed Fish on a leave of absence while the investigation is underway.
The New Republic “is committed to creating and maintaining a respectful, professional work environment, free from harassment of any kind,” McCormack wrote, assuring the staff that he took the allegations “very seriously” and that J.J. Gould and Art Stupar would step in as acting president and acting publisher, respectively.
In an email to Deadline, Fish wrote, “Classic take down underway. We’ll see.” In a telephone interview with Deadline, Victor Navasky, editor of The Nation from 1978 through 1995, when he became its publisher (he is now publisher emeritus), said that he had spoken with Fish and that “I have great affection and respect for Ham, and I am very sad.” Navasky added that he’s prohibited from making further comment because both he and Fish are connected with The Nation Institute. In 1995, after leaving his position as publisher of the newsmagazine, Fish served as president and CEO of the independent nonprofit foundation supporting investigative journalism. Fish left that position in 2009.
The New Republic also was in the news last week, when its former longtime literary editor, Leon Wieseltier, was accused of inappropriate behavior with women staff members during his tenure at the magazine. Wieseltier’s new magazine, Idea, was about to launch, backed financially by the Emerson Collective, a for-profit group headed by Laurene Powell Jobs, a billionaire philanthropist and the widow of Apple founder Steve Jobs.
In a column for The Atlantic magazine, former New Republic staff member Michelle Cottle offered detailed, on-the-record accounts, including her own, of Wieseltier’s, behavior, to which he generally admitted in a published mea culpa:
“For my offenses against some of my colleagues in the past I offer a shaken apology and ask for their forgiveness,” he wrote. “The women with whom I worked are smart and good people. I am ashamed to know that I made any of them feel demeaned and disrespected. I assure them I will not waste this reckoning.”
In response to the reports, Jobs withdrew Emerson’s backing, and Idea has been scuttled, at least for the time being.
And in another development, Knight Landesman, 67, one of four co-publishers of Artforum magazine is the subject of a lawsuit brought by former staff member brought by former staffer Amanda Schmitt claiming Landesman subjected her to “unrelenting sexual harassment, including unwanted physical contact and verbal harassment continuing after she left the company” in 2o12 after three years, beginning when she was 21. Schmitt is seeking $500,000 in damages.
What has many in the media waiting for the next shoe to drop is reports of a list, dubbed “Shit*ty Media Men,” an anonymous, crowdsourced Google spreadsheet naming executives and editors at top publications, including The New York Times and New York magazine, that made the rounds on several sites in recent weeks before disappearing.
Politico reported that both publications have responded to the list, though in different ways. The Times said there were no harassment claims currently and no investigations underway. New York publisher New York Media told Politico that, “[i]n the case of any active New York Media employees who may appear on the ‘men in media’ list, we have reviewed whether any type of action is appropriate and have acted accordingly. It is New York Media’s policy not to disclose publicly any findings or actions taken as a result of this process so as to preserve the confidential and sensitive nature of these matters.”
Navasky, the emeritus publisher of The Nation and the author of Naming Names, a definitive account of the House Un-American Activities Committee hearings in the 1950s and the blacklisting of producers, writers, directors and actors suspected of having Communist associations, told Deadline that his reaction to the ongoing revelations has been mixed.
“I have double feelings,” he said. “I believe it’s very good to raise peoples’ consciousness about how women have been abused in the marketplace. But from my study of the blacklist and the McCarthy hearings, I think lists are dangerous.
“I don’t like them,” he added. “In times like these, hysteria can take over that ignores individuals.”