Vice Media receives allegations of old-school sexual harassment

A brash maverick and consummate salesman, Mr. Smith, 48, remodeled Vice from a free journal in Montreal into a world firm with roughly three,000 workers, a tv community, a digital footprint, a film-production firm in addition to a every day information present and documentary program on HBO.

Alongside the best way Mr. Smith repeatedly mocked conventional media firms as stodgy and uncreative. However lately he set about courting conglomerates just like the Walt Disney Firm and 21st Century Fox, which had been desperate to revenue on Vice’s cachet with millennial audiences. The newest spherical of funding gave the corporate a valuation of greater than $5.7 billion.

Behind that ascent, nevertheless, is a extra disturbing side of Vice’s operations. Individuals concerned with Vice throughout its early days described a punk-rock, male-dominated environment through which makes an attempt to shock typically crossed a line.

In a 2012 interview with the Financial Times, Mr. Smith recalled his earlier days with Vice. “I’d be on the social gathering and would simply wish to get wasted, take coke and have intercourse with ladies within the lavatory,” he mentioned.

In 2003 Vice reached a $25,000 settlement with the freelance author Jessica Hopper. The deal concerned defamation claims tied to an interview she did with the rapper Murs that was revealed within the February 2003 difficulty of the journal, in keeping with a duplicate of the settlement seen by The Instances. In the course of the interview, Murs requested Ms. Hopper if he might have intercourse along with her. She mentioned no and included that reply in her article.

However earlier than the article was revealed, the journal modified her response to sure and printed it underneath the headline, “I Obtained Laid However Murs Did not.”

Mortified, Ms. Hopper employed attorneys. The 2 sides struck a settlement that, along with a payout, required Vice to print a retraction and a proper apology.

In 2003, Vice ran an interview with the rapper Murs carried out by a contract author, Jessica Hopper. In the course of the interview, Murs had requested Ms. Hopper if he might have intercourse along with her. She mentioned no and included that reply in her piece. However earlier than the article was revealed, the journal modified her response to sure.

“Individuals marveled at their means to make their very own guidelines and blindly disregard everybody else’s,” Ms. Hopper mentioned in an interview. She declined to touch upon the existence of a settlement.

“The editor of the piece at the moment has not been with the corporate in a decade,” Vice mentioned in an announcement. “Ms. Hopper was proper to name us on our conduct on the time, and we’re nonetheless ashamed of it.”

Mr. Smith, who had lengthy celebrated a lifetime of hard-partying extra, married a lady in 2009 who had labored at Vice and began sporting fits to the workplace, present and former workers mentioned. However in addition they instructed that he oversaw an organization the place problems with sexual misconduct and harassment festered.

Of their assertion, Mr. Smith and Mr. Alvi admitted that dysfunction and mismanagement from the corporate’s early days “had been allowed to flourish unchecked.”

Girls mentioned that they felt that rejecting sexual advances from bosses might lead to reassignment or misplaced work, and that after they reported issues, executives downplayed the allegations. Some mentioned that whereas they thought-about taking authorized motion, they thought they lacked the monetary assets to sue and feared that Vice would retaliate.

“There’s a poisonous atmosphere the place males can say essentially the most disgusting issues, joke about intercourse brazenly, and general a poisonous atmosphere the place girls are handled far inferior than males,” mentioned Sandra Miller, who labored as head of branded manufacturing at Vice from 2014 to 2016.

She mentioned that as a 50-year-old lady she didn’t face harassment however witnessed “the complicity of accepting that habits, overlaying up for it, and having even essentially the most progressive folks look the opposite approach.”

The office issues had been significantly disappointing, many ladies mentioned, as a result of that they had seen Vice as their dream alternative. The corporate did not pay properly, some mentioned, however it was the definition of cool for many who needed to create leisure and journalism on the innovative. The corporate bestowed choose workers members rings that spell V-I-C-E — thought-about the final word prize.

Individuals labored lengthy hours and partied collectively afterward. And that is the place the traces typically blurred. A number of girls mentioned that after an evening of ingesting, they wound up heading off touching, kissing and different advances from their superiors.

Two girls informed The Instances about episodes involving Mike Germano, Vice’s chief digital officer who based Carrot Inventive, the digital advert company that Vice acquired in 2013. Amanda Rue, a former strategist, mentioned that at Carrot’s vacation social gathering in 2012 Mr. Germano informed her that he hadn’t needed to rent her as a result of he needed to have intercourse along with her.

Gabrielle Schaefer, who labored carefully with Mr. Germano as director of communications at Carrot, mentioned he made her really feel uncomfortable throughout a piece occasion at a bar one evening in 2014 when he pulled her onto his lap. After Ms. Schaefer reported the incident to human assets, she mentioned, she felt that she fell out of favor on the firm and ultimately left.

“Carrot has been repeatedly acknowledged as one of many trade’s greatest locations to work, and I don’t imagine that these allegations replicate the corporate’s tradition — or the best way we deal with one another,” Mr. Germano mentioned in an announcement. “With reference to the incident with Ms. Schaefer, I agreed at the moment it was inappropriate, I apologized, and it was resolved with the assistance of HR.” He mentioned that days later Ms. Schaefer joined his household for dinner and that they “continued to work collectively amicably.”

Within the settlement involving Mr. Creighton, the lady claimed she felt pressured to undergo advances he made throughout a sequence of labor conferences from 2013 to 2015, in keeping with folks accustomed to the matter and letters despatched between attorneys for the lady and Vice.

In a letter to the lady’s lawyer, Vice denied the allegations and mentioned the lady had initiated and pursued a sexual relationship with Mr. Creighton. The corporate mentioned within the letter that her termination was based mostly on poor efficiency.

The dispute was settled in December 2016 after the lady filed a criticism with the US Equal Alternative Fee. (She withdrew her criticism as a situation of the settlement.)

In an announcement, Mr. Creighton mentioned that he and the lady had been “shut pals for a number of years earlier than she joined Vice,” and that they had been “often intimate” as soon as she started working there. He mentioned he was not concerned within the choice to let her go.

“I apologize for the state of affairs, and it has prompted a lot thought in my tasks of look after my colleagues, and I’ll maintain myself and others accountable in developing a respectful office atmosphere.”

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