Commentary

'Rolling Stone' Founder Wenner Accused Of Harassment

Yet another big name in the legacy publishing business has become embroiled in the media sexual harassment scandal triggered by revelations about Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein.

And it shows no signs of abating.

This time, the spotlight falls on Jann Wenner, the founder and former publisher of iconic music magazine Rolling Stone. According to a report first published by BuzzFeed, a 39-year-old writer, Ben Ryan, claims Wenner offered him a contract for multiple articles and “preferential treatment” if the younger man would have sex with him.

Ryan says the offer was rebuffed, but he endured 90 more minutes of unwanted advances before leaving Wenner’s townhouse.

Wenner, who came out in the 1990s, responded to the allegations with a statement to Variety denying any improper offer of work in exchange for sex. Wenner stated: “I met Ben 12 years ago, and I attempted to have a sexual liaison with him. He turned me down, which I respected. I had no intention of making him feel uncomfortable. His piece was subsequently published in any case; no work was promised, and no work was lost. I have never and would never make an offer of this kind.”

Rumors of improper workplace behavior have long swirled around Wenner, whose counterculture music magazine was steeped in the sexual liberation of the 1960s – which many critics say was simple carte blanche for harassment. For example, noted journalist Glenn O’Brien told Wenner’s biographer, Joe Hagan, that he left Rolling Stone because of Wenner’s persistent advances. 

As noted, Wenner is just the latest in a series of media figures accused of harassment, including in magazine publishing.

Last month, New Republic publisher Hamilton Fish V took a temporary leave of absence as the publication investigates sexual harassment claims brought against Fish by multiple current and former female employees of the liberal magazine. In addition, Leon Wieseltier, the formidable former literary editor of The New Republic, found support for his new magazine Idea pulled by Laurene Powell Jobs’ Emerson Collective, after a number of women, including former New Republic colleagues, came forward with claims of unwanted sexual contact and advances over the years.

Also last month, Knight Landesman resigned from his position as co-publisher of Artforum magazine after accusations of sexual harassment, intimidation and other abuses in a civil lawsuit brought by a former employee, Amanda Schmitt.

Vox Media dismissed editorial director Lockhart Steele over allegations of sexual misconduct, which Steele admitted were true, according to Vox Media CEO Jim Bankoff. The allegations surfaced in an anonymous blog post on Medium accusing an unnamed Vox vice president of harassment. 

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