Yesterday afternoon, news broke that The New Yorker had severed ties with its Washington correspondent, Ryan Lizza, for what it called “improper sexual conduct.”
Lizza, a 10-year veteran of the magazine whose July report on a phone call with White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci famously led to Scaramucci’s resignation days later, denied the charge, issuing a statement of his own that called his firing “a terrible mistake.”
“I am dismayed that The New Yorker has decided to characterize a respectful relationship with a woman I dated as somehow inappropriate,” Lizza wrote in an email to reporters.
Douglas Wigdor, the lawyer representing the woman who accused Lizza of misconduct, fired back with a statement of his own, writing, “In no way did Mr. Lizza’s misconduct constitute a ‘respectful relationship,’ as he has now tried to characterize it.”
Before the day was done, CNN suspended Lizza from its programming and Georgetown University announced he would not be back as an adjunct lecturer next semester.
The allegations against Lizza follow those levied now in two separate AP reports against Dylan Howard, the chief content officer and “King of Hollywood Scoops” at American Media Inc., who is alleged by the AP’s sources to have exhibited a pattern of sexually suggestive and inappropriate behavior toward his colleagues—both at AMI and Celebuzz, where he spent about a year as editor-in-chief from 2012 to 2013—including commenting on female employees’ sex lives and encouraging them to have sex with sources for information.
Howard has also been accused, by both The New Yorker‘s Ronan Farrow and actor Terry Crews, of using his resources and connections in attempts to discredit sexual assault claims made against Harvey Weinstein and other allies of AMI CEO David Pecker.
Like Lizza, Howard denies the allegations.
The New Yorker let Lizza go despite this, following similar moves made by publishers and news organizations to hastily distance themselves from men who have been accused of inappropriate behavior, even if said misbehavior was likely not-so-secret, as in the case of NBC’s firing of Matt Lauer or Condé Nast’s own decision to cut ties with photographer Terry Richardson.
Unlike The New Yorker, AMI did not dismiss Howard after any of these reports, instead releasing a statement last Wednesday announcing their support for him and calling the accusations “baseless.” AMI general counsel Cam Stracher likened Howard’s behavior to “horsing around.”
“After a thorough review by a third-party investigator, AMI stands by the findings of that investigation,” the company said. “We welcomed Mr. Howard back to AMI in 2012, and since that time he has continued to have the respect of his peers and colleagues, and has been promoted to his current position as Chief Content Officer. In the wake of these baseless allegations, he has the full support of AMI and its executives.”
If The New Yorker feels that Lizza has behaved in a way that violates its standard of behavior, it owes the public no further transparency in its decision to fire him. If either he or his accuser desires to speak out, they can.
But Howard’s case—in which his accusers were forced to take action because his employer had not, and in which the company itself is a party to the claims of bad behavior levied at the accused—is different.
If Farrow’s reporting was credible enough to contribute greatly to the downfall of Harvey Weinstein and the subsequent wave of cultural self-reckoning it catalyzed, it ought to be sufficient for reevaluating our perception of Dylan Howard.
American Media, Inc. still has some explaining to do.