Billie JD Porter, the British presenter who made a number of sexual assault accusations against bosses at Vice Media in January, has called the company’s response to her claims “cold, unresponsive and inconsistent” and questioned the timing of Shane Smith’s move from CEO to executive chairman.
Porter, who has worked on and off with the company for around 10 years presenting documentaries such as Rose Boy, detailed her dealings with the company’s HR team in a 3,000-word blog post after accusing several Vice employees of giving her a “cocktail of drugs” at work, being asked to perform “sex acts” on her boss, and being encouraged to get drunk before filming.
She slammed the company’s HR processes and in addition to labeling its response to her correspondence “cold, unresponsive and inconsistent,” said there were “far more serious incidents, including senior HR staff mixing up two completely different confidential victim testimonies in Vice’s official written records. That is to say, they included private information that another woman gave them, in a file with my name on it, then sent it to me.”
She said she felt let down by Vice’s official response to her claims, which stated that it was “working quickly and decisively to investigate them and take appropriate actions where necessary” and encouraged her to give further details surrounding any allegations and go to the police.
“My first conversations with Vice’s new HR team were back in November. The information included in my [January] post was not news to them, and at a time where I was constantly having to chase their ‘investigators’ for updates and information, it’s both absurd and wholly unfair for them to have implied that I was the one withholding details. Their desire to try and paint me as being uncooperative in a public statement, during such an upsetting time, is indicative of their levels of human decency and compassion in general,” Porter added.
When Porter first made the allegations last year, it is understood that Vice made a third-party investigator available to her and provided opportunities for her to speak to its HR team and lawyers as well as members of its Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Board.
A Vice spokesman told Deadline, “We are confident in, and stand by, the integrity of our investigation, as well as the company’s response. We conducted the investigation, as we do all investigations, in a thorough, fair and sensitive manner, and listened to and responded to Ms. Porter throughout the process. We took timely and appropriate steps, including the dismissal of an employee.”
Porter admitted that detailing these incidents to “complete strangers is deeply traumatic.” “I was a precocious teenager, but also a very vulnerable one. In saying out loud the multiple ways I was taken advantage of by men twice my age, who I trusted completely, the abuse has become a lot more real, and triggered a huge amount of stress and anxiety in me, that I was in no way prepared for.” She said that she has confirmed one, “unpaid” TV interview with a UK news broadcaster.
Finally, Porter questioned the timing of the hiring of A+E Networks’ Nancy Dubuc as CEO, with Smith moving to become exec chairman.
“The recent news that Shane Smith will stand down as CEO making way for a female replacement (and personal friend of his) will no doubt momentarily reassure some people that positive change is upon us. I’d ask that you question the timing of this move, and what is truly behind it. It’s important for people to note that Shane still holds an extremely senior position at the company, and will continue to work across, in his own words, ‘content and deals.’ This rather transparent restructuring decision has taken effect while certain internal investigations are left unresolved, and while dangerous men remain gainfully employed by Vice.”
This comes as the Vice Union also released a statement slamming the company’s responses. “Despite the company’s repeated commitments, in pubic and private, to respond to decisively to sexual harassment, sexual assault, and other misconduct, current and former employees have made clear that the investigation process remains deeply flawed,” the statement from Vice Union said. “A disconcerting pattern is emerging of the company asking survivors to come forward with their stories of workplace harassment and abuse, with the implication that they will be treated seriously and professionally, only for survivors to report that they feel ignored or are forced to chase after updates.”
Last year, Vice formed a female-led advisory board that includes Gloria Steinem, former Michelle Obama chief of staff Tina Tchen and former Obama aide Alyssa Mastromonaco, and hired Susan Tohyama as its new Global Head of HR in November. Elsewhere, the firm also brought in mandatory sexual harassment training and tightened its reporting processes for inappropriate behavior. It also introduced a number of female-led employee councils on diversity and inclusion across the U.S., UK and Canada.