UPDATE 12:45 PM, Feb. 14: Tamara Taylor, a spokesperson for Thirteen Reasons Why author Jay Asher, has come forward denying the sexual allegations made by the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). Earlier this week, the SCBWI expelled Asher as well as illustration David Diaz after claims they violated the society’s harassment code.
In a statement obtained by Deadline, Taylor says that there was “no allegation, investigation or finding of sexual harassment” as Lin Oliver, SCBWI’s executive director, said earlier this week. Taylor goes on to say that Asher was not banned from the SCBWI and that the false statement has been hurtful to his “livelihood.”
Read the full statement below:
The SCBWI’s recent statement about author Jay Asher is completely false. There was no allegation, investigation or finding of sexual harassment.
In April 2017, Mr. Asher voluntarily agreed that he would no longer attend SCBWI conferences. This was in response to hurt feelings of a group of authors with whom he had consensual relationships that ended poorly.
Mr. Asher was not banned by the SCBWI. In fact, when he let his membership in the group lapse last summer, Lin Oliver, the group’s executive director, suggested that he keep his membership going. He did as requested, and Mr. Asher’s membership is active today.
These women were not subordinates of Mr. Asher; they were his peers and they each entered into romantic relationships with him voluntarily, with some initially pursuing him.
Mr. Asher was married at the time of these relationships, as were many of the women. He is deeply sorry for the pain these consensual decisions caused his family, and others.
The false statements to the news media have resulted in inaccurate and hurtful news coverage, which is threatening Mr. Asher’s livelihood. Mr. Asher has retained legal counsel and is demanding SCBWI and Lin Oliver promptly retract the false and defamatory statements they made.
PREVIOUS: Author Jay Asher, whose 2007 teen suicide novel Thirteen Reasons Why was picked up as a Netflix series, has been expelled from a writers organization over allegations of sexual harassment.
The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators said Monday that Asher had violated the society’s harassment code, but didn’t provide further details. The ban occurred last year but just came to light. Illustrator David Diaz was also banned by the organization.
“Both Jay Asher and David Diaz were found to have violated the SCBWI code of conduct in regard to harassment,” said Lin Oliver, the organization’s executive director, in an email to the Associated Press. “Claims against them were investigated and, as a result, they are no longer members and neither will be appearing at any SCBWI events in the future.”
Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why became a cultural phenomenon among tweens and teens last year when it was adapted by Brian Yorkey for Netflix. The series examines the relationship between high school student Clay Jensen and friend Hannah Baker, the latter a suicide after some demoralizing school encounters. Cassette tapes recorded by Hannah before her death details the thirteen reasons for ending her life.
The series sparked discussion between schools, parents and children over bullying and suicide.
Asher is also known for the novel The Future of Us, while Diaz won the prestigious Caldecott medal for illustration for his 1994 book Smoky Night, one of dozens of prominent books he’s worked on.
Asher told BuzzFeed News today that he left the organization voluntarily and had been “thrown under the bus” by the allegations. “It’s very scary when you know people are just not going to believe you once you open your mouth,” he said. “I feel very conflicted about it just because of what’s going on in the culture and who’s supposed to be believed and who’s not.”
The news has already had some career fallout for Asher. The Oklahoma Writers’ Federation said today that Asher would not be giving a scheduled keynote address at its conference in May.