LA Times Publisher Ross Levinsohn Under Sexual Harassment Investigation, Not Suspended

NPR reported that he ranked looks of female colleagues, used a vulgar term for gays and speculated about whether a colleague was a stripper

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Tronc Inc. is investigating Ross Levinsohn, the CEO and publisher of the Los Angeles Times, after NPR reported that he had admitted under oath to ranking the looks of female colleagues and discussing whether a colleague worked as a stripper, among other incidents. He has not been suspended, however.

“This week, we became aware of allegations that Ross Levinsohn acted inappropriately. We are immediately launching an investigation so that we have a better understanding of what’s occurred,” Tronc, which owns the newspaper, said in a statement Thursday. “At Tronc, we expect all employees to act in a way that supports a culture of diversity and inclusion. We will take appropriate action to address any behavior that falls short of these expectations.”

NPR said Levinsohn did not respond on the record to detailed questions. In a telephone call Wednesday with NPR’s CEO, Jarl Mohn, Levinsohn called the accusations “lies” and said he would retain a lawyer if he felt NPR had disparaged him, NPR reported.

A Tronc spokesman declined to comment to TheWrap on why Levinsohn was not suspended during the investigation, referring TheWrap to the statement from Tronc.

NPR reported that Levinsohn admitted under oath that he rated “the relative ‘hotness’ of his female colleagues in office banter as a vice president at a digital media company [and] testified that he speculated about whether a woman who worked for him there was a stripper on the side.”

In addition, two witnesses said they were “shocked to see Levinsohn aggressively kissing and pressing himself against a woman at a glitzy music industry dinner in plain view of his subordinates and his clients” when Levinsohn was married, NPR said.

NPR also said Levinsohn once told a Hollywood Reporter executive “he would not stay at the publication’s lunch honoring the entertainment business’s most influential fashion stylists because he would have to be surrounded by gays — using a vulgar epithet for them, according to the executive.”

After NPR’s report, the organizing committee pushing for a union there of Los Angeles Times journalists called for Levinsohn to be fired immediately, based on NPR’s findings.

“We are appalled by the findings in the NPR story,” the statement reads. “A man who sexually harasses women, engages in ‘slut-shaming’ and refers to gay men as ‘fags’ is not fit to lead our newspaper. Tronc and its board of directors must be held accountable for their failure to properly vet Levinsohn for one of the most important positions at the company and in American journalism.”

The Los Angeles Times hired Levinsohn, former CEO of Yahoo, after paying his consultancy firm, WAYD, $600,000 over two years to help the Times identify a new direction.

Levinsohn, a longtime media executive who has worked at News Corp and Hollywood Reporter parent Guggenheim Digital Media, is tasked with helping the Los Angeles Times compete with newspapers like the New York Times and Washington Post, which have each boosted their web traffic and built thriving digital-subscription businesses.