Ex-NBC and CNN Exec Michael Bass Accused of 1996 Sexual Assault by Former Intern

Aarthi Rajaraman says the incident occurred when she was 20 in a lawsuit filed Friday in New York

Michael Bass CNN Programming Chief
Courtesy CNN

In a lawsuit filed Friday in New York, former NBC and CNN executive Michael Bass was accused of sexually assaulting his former intern in an incident alleged to have happened in 1996 when Bass was at NBC.

The accuser, Aarthi Rajaraman, who filed the lawsuit, says the attack occurred when she was 20 years old and working as an intern for NBC Sports during the network’s coverage of the Atlanta Olympic games.

According to the lawsuit, which was obtained by The Daily Beast, during this time Rajaraman “observed a freewheeling, unchecked culture in which married, older and more senior NBC employees regularly targeted far younger women… for sexual harassment.”

The assault, the suit says, occurred when Bass was a coordinating producer for NBC, handling late-night coverage of the games. He was also a producer on NBC’s “Today Show.” Rajaraman worked for Bass and, along with other staff, accompanied him to Atlanta for the Olympics. The suit states NBC housed the interns in dormitories at a Decatur, Georgia university several miles east of Atlanta, and required them to take public transit at odd hours to get to work.

Rajaraman says that the assault occurred on July 28, 1996, the day after the games were bombed by domestic terrorist Eric Rudolph. She says she had been working long hours as a result of the attack, and along with other team members was invited for a late dinner and drinks by Bass, where alcohol was provided.

This lasted until 5 a.m., at which point Rajaraman says she was lured to Bass’ hotel room under false pretenses — she needed to use the restroom and had been led to believe Bass’ wife and children were still in Atlanta, so she accepted his offer to use the one in his hotel room. She says at that point he cornered her and began to kiss and grope her. Eventually, she was able to escape by insisting she had to get back to her hotel room.

Rajaraman says she later learned that Bass had helped other interns with their careers and accuses him of blackballing her from New York-based media. The assault and Bass’ subsequent behavior, the lawsuit says, “triggered a downward spiral of excessive drinking, eating disorders, self-contempt, undermining romantic relationships and even suicidal ideation.”

“More than 20 years passed until the #metoo movement and NBC’s ouster of Matt Lauer for similarly unchecked misconduct helped provide [Rajaraman] with the courage, understanding and resolve to, in 2020, contact a lawyer about Defendant Bass’s assault of her during the 1996 Summer Olympics,” the suit says.

The suit names Bass and NBCUniversal as defendants. Rajaraman is asking for a jury trial and whatever damages a jury might deem appropriate. Read the full lawsuit here.

In a statement provided to TheWrap, representatives for NBCUniversal said, “We have been made aware of the complaint and are reviewing it.”

Representatives for Bass didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment from TheWrap.