Vice Launches Investigation After Former Employee Accuses Ex-Editor of Sexual Harassment

“We have immediately begun an investigation into this matter,” a Vice spokesperson tells TheWrap

Vice Media says it is conducting an investigation after a former Vice employee went on-the-record in a Daily Beast article detailing a culture of inappropriate conduct at the company’s Los Angeles offices, including sexual harassment by former L.A. bureau chief Kaj Larsen.

Former Vice associate producer Phoebe Barghouty told Daily Beast that the pattern of inappropriate behavior began in the summer of 2015, right after she was hired, when Larsen made sexually charged comments to her at the first workplace social function she attended. She said he later asked her to come to his home where he met her shirtless and then made her wait while he took a shower.

In other instances she describes unusual and unwanted touching and her belief that she was being used less for journalism and more as “arm-candy” for Larsen at events.

Barghouty also told Daily Beast that workplace culture encouraged female employees to sleep with their superiors in order to secure advancement opportunities. “That was real,” she said. Barghouty says she reported the problem behavior more than once, with no resolution.

Reporter Brandy Zasrozny said that in writing the post, Daily Beast talked to “more than a dozen former and current Vice employees” who described a culture of harassment, and subsequent company indifference, for Vice Media’s female employees. Vice Media disputed that characterization in statements to Daily Beast and to TheWrap.

“We do not tolerate harassment, abusive behavior, assault or retaliation, and we will discipline anyone who engages in such conduct through a range of actions, including termination, as appropriate,” a Vice spokesperson told TheWrap. “We have immediately begun an investigation into this matter.”

Vice said in a separate statement to Daily Beast that the company “will investigate all allegations of such behavior, including any incidents where employees purportedly attempted to justify their conduct through the agreement. We have immediately begun reviewing this matter.”

The company has long tried to shake a culture of misogyny that was endemic to its early history. Earlier this week, the New York Post resurfaced an embarrassing book, “The Vice Guide to Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll,” by Vice co-founders Shane Smith, Gavin McInnes and Suroosh Alvi which describes their libertine sexual past.

Per the Post:

in a chapter titled “Vice — The Whole Story,” McInnes, who left Vice in 2008 under a dark cloud and now heads right-wing group Proud Boys, says: “We’ve always used the magazine as a way to get laid, especially Vice Girls [a ‘girl of the month’ feature].” Smith adds, “We even got some orgies out of it.”