Los Angeles Times Publisher and CEO Ross Levinsohn is under investigation after a report detailed two past settlements paid in sexual-harassment lawsuits, as well as other inappropriate workplace behavior by the publishing executive.
NPR’s David Folkenflik examined Levinsohn’s behavior over the last two decades, finding examples of sexist and homophobic behavior during his time at past companies he worked for, including Alta Vista, the now-defunct search engine.
A Tronc spokeswoman said the company became aware of the allegations this week and has launched an investigation.
“At Tronc, we expect all employees to act in a way that supports a culture of diversity and inclusion,” the spokeswoman said. “We will take appropriate action to address any behavior that falls short of these expectations.”
Levinsohn did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.
Levinsohn has been publisher since August 2017. He was hailed as a “digital media pioneer” who held leadership roles at Yahoo and Fox. According to the NPR investigation, Levinsohn appears to have created a hostile work environment. Before being named publisher of the Los Angeles Times, Levinsohn held top jobs at News Corp. and Yahoo!.
Relying on a review of court documents and interviews with more than two dozen former colleagues and associates, NPR reported that Levinsohn admitted in sworn testimony that he had rated the attractiveness of female colleagues when he worked at Alta Vista.
And when he was an executive at Guggenheim Partners, then controlling owner of the Hollywood Reporter and Billboard magazine, he left a fashion event sponsored by the Hollywood Reporter because he did not want to be around gay men, referring to them with a homophobic slur.
In another instance, Levinsohn, who is married, is described as “aggressively kissing and pressing himself” against a woman at a music industry party in Las Vegas in view of his employees and clients.
The Los Angeles Times has aggressively reported on sexual harassment charges leveled against a litany of powerful men across industries like entertainment, politics and media. The newspaper has experienced a slew of leadership changes in recent months, most notably the firing of four top editors, including editor-in-chief Davan Maharaj.
The news of Levinsohn’s behavior and the lawsuits comes a day before federal labor officials are set to announce the results of a unionization vote taken by the Los Angeles Times newsroom earlier this month.
In a statement, the Los Angeles Times Guild organizing committee issued a statement calling for the immediate resignation or firing of Levinsohn.
“A man who sexually harasses women, engages in ‘slut-shaming’ and refers to gay men as ‘fags’ is not fit to lead our newspaper,” the statement said.
The organizing committee also called for an independent investigation to learn more about the vetting that went into his hiring. They also demanded to know whether he has acted inappropriately since becoming publisher.
Twelve senior editors from the Times released a statement to NPR Thursday evening as well, which says that they are “deeply concerned” about the behavior attributed to Levinsohn, referring to it as “unacceptable” and jeopardizing “the Times’ 136-year legacy of integrity.”
Read the full statement below.
As senior editors at the Los Angeles Times, we are deeply concerned about reports that publisher Ross Levinsohn has admitted in sworn testimony to at least two acts of sexual harassment in connection with his previous employment. We are also aware of additional, credible reports that Levinsohn engaged in other acts of sexual misconduct in the workplace, and used a vulgar, homophobic epithet.
Such behavior is unacceptable and jeopardizes the Times’ 136-year legacy of integrity.
The organization should not be led by anyone who has engaged in this behavior, if it is true, particularly given the publication’s role in investigating multiple industries and governments on the topic of sexual harassment.