The Los Angeles Times parent company tronc said it is launching an investigation following allegations of past sexual harassment and inappropriate conduct in work settings involving LAT publisher Ross Levinsohn.
National Public Radio reported today that Levinsohn had been sued in two separate sexual harassment cases while working at different companies, and with past fellow employees who cited several instances of inappropriate workplace conduct.
A group involved in the unionization effort at the LAT issued a statement describing Levinsohn as “not fit to lead our newsroom,” and called on him to immediately resign or be fired.
“A man who sexually harasses women, engages in “slut-shaming” and refers to gay men as “fags” is not fit to lead our newspaper,” members of the Los Angeles Times Guild organizing committee wrote. “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 committee called for an independent investigation to examine the hiring process and determine whether he acted inappropriately toward Times employees during his tenure as publisher.
According to the NPR report, Levinsohn admitted in sworn testimony to rating the “hotness” of female subordinates while working as an executive at the search company Alta Vista, and wondering aloud whether one female colleague worked as a stripper on the side.
A former Alta Vista employee, Christine Fox, filed suit against the company and several executives — including Levinsohn — alleging a hostile work environment. A former executive at the company, Celia Francis, testified in the case that she had warned two top executives about the culture Levensohn had created when she left the company, NPR reported. “Ross was creating a frat house environment,” Francis testified at the time. “His behavior was inappropriate. … I wanted to let them know they should do something about it.”
At the time, Levinsohn testified that he thought the complaint was “ludicrous,” NPR reported, and testified that any sexually charged banter he participated in took place out of earshot from female employees.
While working as a senior vice president for News Corp, Levinsohn also was named in a suit brought against the company and various Fox executives by a video producer, who alleged she had been sexually harassed in the workplace by her boss, a subordinate of Levinsohn. The woman said that when she asked Levinsohn for a promotion, he pointed to a Fox Sports sideline reporter, a former pinup model, as a template for success, saying she “learned how to work her way to the top,” NPR reported.
Sources also told NPR they had observed Levinsohn “aggressively kissing” and touching a woman at a Billboard Music Awards party in Las Vegas, in front of clients and his own employees. He was chief executive of Guggenheim Digital Media, overseeing The Hollywood Reporter, Billboard and Adweek. He also reportedly left a luncheon honoring influential fashion stylists, telling an executive for The Hollywood Reporter, remarking, “why would I hang out with a bunch of ladies and fags?”
Tronc issued a statement saying it was investigating the matter.
“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,” the company said. “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.”
Levinsohn did not respond to a request seeking comment.