(Photo: Craig Barritt/Getty Images)

Mario Batali is taking a leave of absence from his role at Batali & Bastianich Hospitality Group after four women told Eater he groped them. Batali didn’t deny any of the claims in a statement given to the publication, in which he admits that they “match up” with his behavior.

The four women who spoke with Eater did so under anonymity out of fear of retaliation, but were very forthcoming about Batali’s abuse. Two of the women were in his employ when he groped them and “compelled” one of them to “straddle him”; a third woman no longer worked for him when he grabbed her breasts; and a fourth woman never worked with Batali, but was pursued and groped by him at an industry party. Their accounts, along with those of several of Batali’s former employees, make up a larger pattern of harassing behavior. Batali would frequently press himself against servers at his restaurants, make crude comments about women’s bodies, or ask them personal questions about their sex lives and underwear.

Batali’s behavior spans nearly two decades by Eater’s estimate, which appears to be backed by the chronology from the people interviewed, as well as Steve Crane, who co-owned Pó with Batali and shared with Eater the story of one former server who said she was groped or harassed by the Chew host on multiple occasions. There are many more accounts included in Eater’s exposé from people who withheld their names out of fear of retribution from Batali, who remains a very influential figure in the food industry, and who is retaining ownership of his restaurants even as he steps away from the organization he founded with Joe Bastianich.

Back in October 2017, the B&B restaurant group received the first formal complaint against Batali, who was reprimanded and ordered to undergo training, according to the company. The restaurant group issued a statement in which it stressed that the allegations against Batali are being taken very seriously, and that “Mr. Batali and we have agreed that he will step away from the company’s operations, including the restaurants, and has already done so.” In addition to that mutually agreed-upon exit, ABC has asked Batali to step away from his daytime show The Chew, “while we review the allegations that have just recently come to our attention.”

Here’s Batali’s statement in full:

I apologize to the people I have mistreated and hurt. Although the identities of most of the individuals mentioned in these stories have not been revealed to me, much of the behavior described does, in fact, match up with ways I have acted. That behavior was wrong and there are no excuses. I take full responsibility and am deeply sorry for any pain, humiliation or discomfort I have caused to my peers, employees, customers, friends and family.

I have work to do to try to regain the trust of those I have hurt and disappointed. For this reason, I am going to step away from day-to-day operations of my businesses. We built these restaurants so that our guests could have fun and indulge, but I took that too far in my own behavior. I won’t make that mistake again. I want any place I am associated with to feel comfortable and safe for the people who work or dine there.

I know my actions have disappointed many people. The successes I have enjoyed are owned by everyone on my team. The failures are mine alone. To the people who have been at my side during this time—my family, my partners, my employees, my friends, my fans—I am grateful for your support and hopeful that I can regain your respect and trust. I will spend the next period of time trying to do that.

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