Mic.com announced on Tuesday that it had fired longtime reporter Jack Smith IV after a lengthy series of sexual misconduct accusations were published in Jezebel on Monday.
“Because of the multiple, disturbing allegations made in this story against Jack Smith, we have terminated our contract with him, effective immediately,” executive news director Kerry Lauerman said in a note shared to staff late Monday evening obtained by TheWrap.
“This is not a decision we have taken lightly, and we’ll have more to say in the coming days, but wanted to let the staff know of our decision tonight, given the nature,” Lauerman wrote.
Smith could not immediately be reached for comment.
On Monday, Jezebel published a story by editor in chief Julianne Escobedo Shepherd detailing multiple accusations of misconduct from five different women.
“All of these women accuse Smith of behavior they variously describe as emotional abuse, manipulation, and gaslighting,” Jezebel wrote. “Three of these women say independently of one another that these tactics led to coercive sex.”
In her story, Shepherd also said that Smith had attempted to use legal threats to keep the piece from being published. “On July 12, an attorney for Smith, Rose Meade Hart, sent Jezebel a cease and desist letter with expressed intent to sue for defamation should this piece be published,” she wrote.
The piece also reported that Mic first became aware of an investigation into Smith’s personal conduct in July and that the company responded by putting him on paid leave and launching an internal investigation — which ultimately cleared him.
A rep for Mic declined to offer further comment about its handling of Smith’s case.
Smith faced an immediate backlash on Twitter after the accusations came to light Monday, with the website union tweeting out a fulsome condemnation.
“We have been appalled by the accounts given in an article. We stand in solidarity with the victims of sexual assault and harassment,” the union said in a statement.
We are aware of the allegations against our colleague Jack Smith IV. We have been appalled by the accounts given in an article. We stand in solidarity with the victims of sexual assault and harassment. We are meeting as a union to decide on a further response. #BelieveSurvivors
— Mic Union (@mic_union) September 25, 2018
Former employees of the website also took to Twitter to condemn Smith and their former company for how they handled the investigation.
“Truly horrified to have worked for someone whose response to allegations about an employee is to put him on paid leave,” said the site’s former entertainment reporter Kevin O’Keeffe.
mic has done everything in their power to enable and protect jack smith. there were people who were laid off and fired for trivial matters, but despite multiple concerns from staff and sexual assault allegations, mic thought he was deserving of paid leave.
— sarah amy harvard (@amyharvard_) September 25, 2018
Truly horrified to have worked for someone whose response to allegations about an employee is to put him on paid leave.
— Kevin O'Keeffe (@kevinpokeeffe) September 24, 2018
Mic management: “Can’t have HR complaints if you don’t really have an HR department.” pic.twitter.com/ja2bXz9Ifq
— Ashley Alese Edwards (@AshleyAlese) September 24, 2018
The timing comes at a bad time for Mic, which has faced reporting in the Wall Street Journal and elsewhere that they were hoping for an acquisition or possibly even considering closing the company. The news forced CEO and co-founder Chris Altchek to public denial the rumors.
Categorically false and irresponsible to not even ask for comment. https://t.co/x1onRnuz74
— Chris Altchek (@caltchek) September 21, 2018
In a memo circulated to employees last week obtained by TheWrap, Altchek said rumors of a proposed acquisition were true.
“Mic has received acquisition interest,” he said. “Similarly to past inbounds, we are focused on putting Mic in the best position to pursue our mission and are flattered that others recognize our value and potential.”