The New York Times released the latest in an ongoing series of reports about sexual harassment in the American media today, this time targeting the culture at punk-rock news outlet turned Disney-partnering production giant Vice. The profile—which involved interviews with more than 100 Vice employees, past and present—revealed a number of harassment settlements the company has made over the years, mostly with women who alleged that superiors pressured them into sexual relationships, and then punished them when they refused those advances.
The report places at least some of the blame for these incidents on the company’s co-founder and current CEO, Shane Smith, who helped create and propagate its culture of calculated cool in the early 2000s. Although Smith has largely cleaned up his act in recent years—no longer looking “to get wasted, take coke and have sex with girls in the bathroom,” as he once spoke of his younger self—the picture painted of his company is still of one where cultivated debauchery, especially by male employees, was a sought-after part of the brand.
The Times report suggests that Vice—which now has its own TV network, along with production deals with big channels like HBO—has worked over the last year to curb harassment complaints, at least in part because company management knew the Times piece was in the works. The company recently fired at least a few employees, including the former head of its documentary film unit, Jason Mojica, who’d been named in multiple harassment accounts. (Meanwhile, back at the time of the incidents, they were reportedly brushed off by the company’s HR department as guys like Mojica just “making a pass” at subordinates, trivial events that women “should just forget about it and laugh it off.”)
Vice recently appointed feminist icon Gloria Steinem—who has her own show on Viceland—to its new “Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Board” in an alleged effort to change corporate attitudes. The company also released a statement on its culture to employees and the public at large earlier today, admitting that “The truth is inescapable: from the top down, we have failed as a company to create a safe and inclusive workplace where everyone, especially women, can feel respected and thrive.”