Ian Buruma, the top editor of The New York Review of Books, has left his post in the wake of his defense of publishing an essay by disgraced Canadian ex-radio host Jian Ghomeshi.

The exit follows a similar, widely criticized radio defense by the publisher of Harper’s magazine of a piece written by accused #MeToo perpetrator John Hockenberry.

The Ghomeshi piece is billed on the cover of the august periodical’s current issue, which explores the theme “The Fall of Men.” Headlined “Reflections From a Hashtag,” the essay aims to shed light on the fate of men who have been accused of misdeeds and the reputational price they pay in the #MeToo era. Ghomeshi is known for co-founding the Canadian public radio show Q, a Fresh Air-like program featuring interviews with a cross-section of cultural and political figures. It airs nightly in New York on WNYC and on dozens of other U.S. radio stations.

Ghomeshi’s personal circumstances predate the #MeToo movement, but has some aspects in common with cases from the past 12 months. He was cut loose from in 2014 after a series of allegations of sexual misconduct. After more than 20 women accused him, Ghomeshi was acquitted of sexual assault charges in 2016 after making pledges to maintain good behavior.

Ghomeshi described suffering “enough humiliation for a lifetime” and explained that he was writing to try to “inject nuance” into the #MeToo conversation.

“I cannot just move to another town and reboot with a pseudonym. I’m constantly competing with a villainous version of myself online,” Ghomeshi wrote. “This is the power of a contemporary mass shaming. Even people who are supportive sometimes have expectations of how I will act based on a singular, sexualized identity that was repeated in media stories. But this period has also been a tremendous education.”

The piece in the NYRB struck many readers — certainly those sharing their opinions on social media — as superficial and focused on his own obstacles. He wrote about reaching out to several of his alleged victims to make peace, but several flatly disputed his account that he had done so and not heard back from them.

Founded in 1963, the Review is a legendary redoubt of intellectuals and writers who often take decidedly contrarian views. In 2014, a Martin Scorsese-produced documentary about the magazine, The 50-Year Argument, aired on HBO. It featured reflections on noteworthy pieces published over the years from the likes of Joan Didion, Susan Sontag, Freeman Dyson and many others.

Buruma, a former contributor to New York Review who became its editor last year, defended the piece in an interview with Slate. Ghomeshi’s account, he said, “seemed like a story that was worth hearing — not necessarily as a defense of what he may have done.” He added that it contributed “an angle on an issue that is clearly very important and that I felt had not been exposed very much.”

A magazine rep did not respond to a request from Deadline.

At the same time Buruma was leaving the stage, Harper’s, which was founded in 1850, was coping with blowback from its decision to run a nearly 7,000-word piece by former public radio host John Hockenberry. It detailed his attempt to find a “road back from personal and public shame” in the months since allegations surfaced that he harassed female colleagues and one author who was a guest on his show, WNYC’s The Takeaway. A subsequent investigation found “offensive and at times discriminatorily harassing conduct,” bullying behavior and a culture of silence where harassing conduct went unreported.

Hockenberry admits to “bad judgment” and having made “mistakes” but chafes at those who equate his conduct with that of Harvey Weinstein.
“It was open season on me, just as with others, in the public radio world,” Hockenberry writes. “The inchoate anger of #MeToo was suddenly given license to target me, to make me an example, whether intended or not, to characterize me as a symbol of a tolerant radio culture of abuse, to see that I never worked in public radio again, to make sure any young women I met were cautious and vigilant and kept their distance. It has worked.”
The response, especially on Twitter, was not kind.
“Under the guise of sort of an attempt to reckon with his misdeeds, he certainly doesn’t seem to acknowledge anything he did wrong,” said Ruth Spencer, a senior editor at The Cut. (The New York magazine-run women’s fashion and lifestyle blog is where one of Hockenberry’s accusers, an on-air Takeaway guest, first gave her account of his actions). “In fact, he spends seven thousand words defending himself, explaining away what happened, describing himself as romantic. You know, as though he’s this misunderstood, innocent character.”
Harper’s recently departed managing editor, Hasan Altaf, told the Huffington Post that he and the rest of the editorial staff had been “sidelined” during the development of the Hockenberry piece, and he joined others in literary circles who criticized its publication.
Harper’s president and publisher Rick MacArthur defended the decision to publish the essay — telling a CBC Radio interviewer, Anna Maria Tremonti, that “the #MeToo movement has had a tendency, an unfortunate tendency, to lump together everybody who from Harvey Weinstein to the guy who looked at you funny in the lunchroom, at the office canteen or who maybe sent you a suggestive message.”
MacArthur prefaced his remarks by noting that Hockenberry is a paraplegic, noting that’s relevant, because, “It’s hard to get out of your wheelchair to attack somebody.” Throughout the interview, he interrupts Tremonti and at one point remarks, “there is something in the tone of voice I hear … it rises to the level of Soviet style re-education,” and criticized what he sees as a “disproportionate response” to some recent sexual harassment allegations.
Here is some of the reaction on Twitter, and the Review‘s initial promotion of the current issue.