The Associated Press reported yesterday that several American Media Inc. employees had come forward, claiming Dylan Howard, top editor of the company’s celebrity titles, had sexually harassed them.
The media company was quick to issue a release in support of Howard, but the story detailed years of abuse. In fact, Howard quit the company’s LA branch in 2012, only to be rehired a year later and offered a promotion in the New York office.
AMI’s support underscored a culture that protects those accused of sexual abuse.
Soon after the AP report was published, actor Terry Crews tweeted that Howard had attempted to intimidate him after Crews had appeared on “Good Morning America" to tell his own story of being sexually assaulted by WME agent Adam Venit.
According to Crews, Howard threatened to run a false story on Radar Online accusing Crews of hiring two prostitutes in Monte Carlo in retribution for naming Venit.
“ABUSERS PROTECT ABUSERS,” Crews stated in his Tweet.
This statement became even more troubling when The New York Times published its scathing feature “Weinstein’s Complicity Machine,” in which Howard and American Media Inc.’s publisher David J. Pecker are explicitly named. According to the story, both helped Weinstein cover up his abuse and criminal behavior.
The synchronicity of the past day’s news cycle exposes a larger, and more depressing, truth about sexual harassment. I t comes as Time named “The Silence Breakers” its Person of the Year. "The Silence Breakers" refers to women who reported the abuses of powerful men in various sectors, including entertainment.
The problem doesn't end by removing harassers from their positions of power. The harassment problem is systemic and cultural. Industries and institutions must be restructured to respect law and ethics, safeguard employees from a hostile work environment, and prosecute offenders when warranted.
Corruption is endemic; too often companies routinely shield and enable abusers. When they are media companies, they also could prove dangerous to journalism.
For example, just a few months ago, rumors circled that Pecker wanted to buy Time magazine. What would Pecker, who has long been a supporter and protector of abusers like Harvey Weinstein and Donald Trump, do with a title that put female whistleblowers on the cover?
According to the NYT report, both men were known as FOP or “friend of Pecker,” someone untouchable in the tabloid industry, due to his media reach. Rather than expose such men in his magazines, Pecker protects them.
When Weinstein was accused of misconduct by Rose McGowan in 2016, Howard hired a reporter at Coleman-Rayner, an entertainment news service, to collect negative information about her, per the NYT. A story was never produced, but Weinstein knew he had the support of AMI. Howard is reported to have offered his help during other points in the Weinstein investigation, as well.
The value of iconic news titles, such as Time, rests in their willingness to speak truth to power. Can they risk being sold to factions that will silence efforts to promote a lawful society?