Irony of the year: sexual misconduct ignored at HuffPo, harasser simply transferred to India by Arianna

This report is all over the place, including, of course, right-wing sites, but I think it was first broken by Gizmodo in the following piece (click on screenshot to see the piece). One place it hasn’t been reported (as of this morning) is of course HuffPo itself, which lately is devoting half its space to accusations of sexual harassment and assault in other places. I’m wondering whether they’ll check out the beam in their own eye.

I can’t say that this causes me Schadenfreude, as it’s not pleasurable to hear about sexual misconduct and those who ignore it, but it does seem ironic, and if HuffPo doesn’t report it, they’ll be big-time hypocrites.

Remember that HuffPo was sold to AOL in 2011, but Arianna remained as editor-in-chief of the HuffPo media group until last year. The conduct reported took place when she was still in charge.

After briefly recounting Arianna’s crusade against sexism at Uber, reporter Ehrenkranz reports that one of her “lieutenants”, Jimmy Soni (the managing editor of HuffPo) was suddenly assigned to New Delhi to launch HuffPost India. A Gawker investigation revealed that the Human Resources office of HuffPo got reports that Soni was sexually harassing women employees who were his subordinates.  Instead of being punished (and believe me, HuffPo today would be issuing loud calls for his resignation were he somewhere else), he was simply transferred—much as the Catholic Church transferred sexual-predator priests among parishes to cover up their misdeeds.  Did Arianna know? Gizmodo says, “yes”:

In May of 2014, Huffington sent a laudatory memo to her then staff at the Huffington Post about the promotion of one of her most trusted lieutenants Jimmy Soni, the then-managing editor at the Huffington Post and widely seen as her favorite among the editorial leadership team. Huffington announced to her employees that Soni would be leaving to launch HuffPost India in New Delhi, a surprising move since he had been promoted to managing editor in January 2012 with no direct background in editorial and after serving as Huffington’s chief of staff for just nine months.

. . . 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.

There are several examples given of the harassment, which is equal in severity and nature (unequal power dynamics) to other cases reported by HuffPo. Here’s one:

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.”

One former staffer said that on one or two occasions while Soni was managing editor, he tried to kiss or make-out with her. She also added that when Soni took over as managing editor, “shit hit the fan,” and that he created a toxic work environment, enforcing unrealistic goals and working everyone tirelessly. “Allies became enemies, enemies became allies. It was a mess.” She described Huffington as someone who may value portraying herself as a feminist, but ultimately prioritizes a ruthless work ethic over issues of sexual harassment, or what she believed Huffington viewed as “the softer side of things.” She added that Huffington “thinks those things can be swept under the rug, but earnings can’t be,” noting that “everything for her is about the optics.” In response to Huffington’s recent Uber tour, she called Huffington “a major hypocrite.”

There are other examples of harassment as well. When Soni’s behavior was reported to Human Resources, their response was to “protect Arianna and the company”. Their way of doing this was simply to transfer Soni, which is no way to guarantee that his behavior would stop, nor give redress to the victims. Imagine what HuffPo would have said had Uber simply sent its own harassers to another city! At any rate, Ehrenkranz’s article ends with this simple note:

Huffington declined to comment on the record and Soni could not be reached for comment.

I will, of course, be watching HuffPo to see if they write about this. Given their history of reporting, they’d better, or they’ll be major hypocrites. But Arianna already is one—for acting like the Vatican towards an accused sexual harasser.

h/t: Orli


  1. BobTerrace
    Posted November 15, 2017 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    PuffHo has never been a real news organization.

  2. Randall Schenck
    Posted November 15, 2017 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    Why am I not surprised? She has always appeared as a self-promoting expert on nothing and everything.

  3. nicky
    Posted November 15, 2017 at 11:26 am | Permalink

    A schoolbook example of hypocrisy, I’d say.

  4. Ken Kukec
    Posted November 15, 2017 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    Maybe they transferred Soni to India to keep him away from the “white, blonde women” — the way ephebophiliac priests might be transferred from a high-school to a grade school so as to lead them not into temptation, but deliver them from evil, Amen.

    Be a cold day in hell before I forgive the Church, or Ariana, their trespasses.

  5. Jake Sevins
    Posted November 15, 2017 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    Wow, what hypocrisy. What next? A homophobic right-wing senator who turns out to be gay himself?

    • murali
      Posted November 15, 2017 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

      ‘homophobic right-wing senator’

      That is plausible. I wonder if there are examples of that in the US.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted November 15, 2017 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

        Check out Larry “Wide Stance” Craig.

        • Jake Sevins
          Posted November 15, 2017 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

          That was one of the examples I had in mind, Ken. Craig denies that he’s gay to this day. What a tortured mind one must have to be indoctrinated into the “gay is evil” mindset and then realize you yourself are gay.

          • Ken Kukec
            Posted November 15, 2017 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

            Yeah, strident homophobes turning out to be deeply closeted, self-loathing gays is such a common phenomenon, my only surprise with Roy Moore was that it’s little girls he was diddling.

  6. Filippo
    Posted November 15, 2017 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

    Madam Huffington needs to be as concerned about sexual harassment as she is about getting a good night’s sleep. (As if she really cares about whether a graveyard shift “blue collar” manual laborer – someone who actually DOES something – gets quality sleep.)

  7. Richard Sanderson
    Posted November 15, 2017 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

    No surprise whatsoever.

    Those regressive left outlets and outrage factories that bang on about sexual harassment, are usually the first places I look at when looking at places where sexual harassment is (or has been) a problem.

    Cough! FreeThoughtBlogs and Pharyngula. Cough!

  8. Posted November 15, 2017 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

    But at least they pay the people who provide them content well. Oh, wait…..

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