Publishing icon Jann Wenner is facing an allegation of sexual misconduct by freelance writer Ben Ryan. In an account published by BuzzFeed, Ryan says that Wenner, a founding editor of Rolling Stone magazine, engaged in sexually inappropriate behavior in his Upper West Side townhouse more than a decade ago and then offered Ryan an opportunity to write for Men’s Journal in exchange for sex.
“As I was leaving his place he offered me a multi-article contract in exchange for sex,” Ryan told TheWrap. “His tone of voice was rather sarcastic, I will allow. Nevertheless, he did put the offer into words; and this is not the sort of thing you joke about when you are the head of a large media company. Sexual harassment is not a joking matter.”
The story was first reported in BuzzFeed, which published a detailed account of the incident.
“I had Jann Wenner’s tongue in my mouth,” Ryan told the website. “I went along for a second but then said something to the effect of ‘oh please, I’m not that kind of girl.’”
In a statement to TheWrap, Wenner admitted the incident took place but downplayed the significance.
“I met Ben twelve years ago and I attempted to have a sexual liaison with him. He turned me down, which I respected. I had no intention of making him feel uncomfortable,” he said. “His piece was subsequently published in any case; no work was promised and no work was lost. I have never and would never make an offer of this kind.”
Ryan told TheWrap that Wenner’s statement was false and that he recorded the exact words offering a quid pro quo in a journal at the time.
“Additionally, he went well beyond flirting with me,” said Ryan. “He was indeed sexually aggressive with me in his townhouse and did start kissing me.”
As publisher of Rolling Stone magazine, Wenner is a titanic figure in the media world. The accusation of impropriety against him adds his name to a growing list of figures in media and politics now also facing accusations of sexual harassment and assault.