In a long exposé, Arianna Huffington is accused of turning a blind eye to years of sexual misconduct by highly placed editors right under her nose when she was running her famed Huffington Post blog.
While remarking that Huffington was applauded as the stake-holding “feminist” who would “clean up Uber” after accusations of sexual misconduct were made at the ride-sharing giant, Gizmodo columnist Melanie Ehrenkranz noted that Huffington did little to address the same problems at her own big company.
According to Ehrenkranz, “being a powerful woman with a stake in a company, and its profits, doesn’t mean Huffington was actually the best choice to champion women struggling to make their voices heard.”
“Huffington’s well-documented history of fostering a toxic work culture, and failing to address inappropriate behavior [at Huffington Post] … calls into question the sincerity behind her pledge to help bring positive change to Uber’s culture,” Ehrenkranz proclaimed.
Ehrenkranz goes on to accuse Huffington of “turning a blind eye” to the sexual misconduct of top editor Jimmy Soni who, in 2014, was suddenly reassigned to help launch HuffPost India and sent to New Delhi after rumors swirled that he acted inappropriately with multiple female employees.
After Soni’s reassignment three years ago, Gawker reported that “the transfer was likely the result of an HR investigation into whether Soni was sexually harassing young women while he oversaw the newsroom.”
Ehrenkranz added that she independently verified the claims:
Given Huffington’s new role as Uber’s toxic culture clean-up consultant, Gizmodo spoke with nine Huffington Post employees, current and former, who spoke under the condition of anonymity because they continue to work in media and fear retaliation from Huffington. A former employee with direct knowledge of the investigation not only independently confirmed that the investigation was indeed the reason for Soni’s transfer, but that Huffington “100 percent knew” about Soni’s actions before they were reported to HR. Another employee in a senior leadership role at that time also confirmed Huffington’s direct knowledge of Soni’s harassing behavior before she sent out the memo, in which Huffington called it a “dream of Jimmy’s, as both his parents were born and raised there.” Huffington also noted in the memo that it was great for the company that Soni would be the one spearheading such a significant launch.
Gizmodo has also independently confirmed just what Huffington would likely have known regarding Soni’s reputation in the newsroom and the ensuing allegations against him. Soni selected the individuals for HuffPost’s Editorial Fellows program, and reportedly saw this program as a way to find a romantic partner. According to Gawker, when an editor reportedly pointed out to Soni that the group of fellows was predominantly white, blonde women, Soni reportedly responded in a semi-joking manner, “Yeah, I’m using it to find myself a wife.”
Soni went on to recount the claims of several more accusers and then said Huffington was fully aware of it all but didn’t want to get involved.
“The source with knowledge of the investigation said that Huffington didn’t want to deal with Soni’s behavior,” Ehrenkranz said, “so she left it to HR. ‘She didn’t handle it in a good way,’ they said, adding that ‘HR protected Arianna and the company more than the employees.’”
This source also told Gizmodo that “Huffington never sat down with any of the fellows or apologized for what happened with Soni.”
With that, Ehrenkranz said Huffington makes a poor advocate for women:
Huffington’s knowledge of the investigation into Soni, together with an absence of recognition of the issues internally or externally, cast doubt on her commitment to advocate on behalf of women. A Huffington Post employee who was an editor at the time said that Huffington was “very protective of those who were in her inner lair,” adding that “I don’t doubt for a fraction of a second that she would protect them whether it’s for sexual misconduct or professional misdealings.”
Ehrenkranz concluded saying that, with this history of doing nothing to address sexual misconduct by someone in her inner circle, “suspicions of Huffington’s sincerity were well founded.”
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.