What do we do with all of these leftover middle-aged accused sexual harassers?

“Top NPR Editor Accused of Sexual Harassment While at The New York Times” (nytimes) would have been more fun if titled “Who will scold the scolders?” but, even with its boring title, raises some interesting questions, e.g.,

  • Can an employer fire someone based on conduct at a previous employer?
  • If there are some accusations that must necessarily lead to being shunned from the workforce… can the shunned person claim that this is a disability and thus join the SSDI party?

The story concerns an unfortunate middle-aged guy who was anonymously denounced:

In The Post’s report, the women, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that they had faced unwanted sexual advances from Mr. Oreskes as they talked with him about job opportunities. The episodes, they said, occurred in the late 1990s.

Now he is on leave and presumably will be out of a job soon (how is he going to disprove allegations of what he might have said or done 20 years ago?).

First, if he has a contract with NPR can they terminate it because he was anonymously denounced? Even if somehow it could be proved that he did something improper 20 years ago, can NPR fire him? Most employers ask about criminal convictions, but don’t ask “In the years since you were born, did you ever do anything wrong, that you regret, or that someone might denounce you for?” So he wouldn’t have had to lie to NPR.

NPR does seem to be on the road to firing the guy, so let’s assume the answer to the above question is “yes.” Then let’s consider what happens to this guy. What employer would want to take the risk of hiring him? That seems like a slam-dunk way to lose a lawsuit. Any woman in the U.S. can sue the next employer claiming that she met the guy and he made an “unwanted sexual advance.” Plainly his employer should have known about this propensity as it was reported in the New York Times!

So if he can’t work again, is that a “disability” that would qualify him for SSDI? SSDI generally requires a “medical” disability, so unless he is depressed because he was fired… what does society do with guys like this? Should there be a federal agency that hires them all and puts them to work together? (so they can harass each other, but not anyone else) Do they collect welfare checks on condition that they remove to remote areas where there are no attractive young people to harass?


  1. Anonymous

    November 2, 2017 @ 2:29 pm


    Not sure about his age but he could be pushing 60th. Maybe he can start to draw on his 401K and Social Security benefits early? Wikipedia says that his father was dean of Health sciences and presumably should be a medical doctor. So he could have parental trust (and it could be target of a harassment lawsuit). Maybe he can sue NPR if offences are unprovable or do not violate his contract. Why SSDI?

  2. Jack

    November 2, 2017 @ 2:41 pm


    Maybe he and Harve and Kevin Spacey could form a consulting firm and give advice to people who are the targets of these sorts of accusations. They could tour schools and prisons and businesses and give workshops showing that sexual harassment just isn’t worth it — “an hour of pleasure, a lifetime of pain,” that sort of thing. If they hired a few mental health professionals they could also counsel victims and victimizers, both present and future.

  3. Neal

    November 2, 2017 @ 3:13 pm


    If he has a contract, wouldn’t there probably be a term about not making them look bad?

  4. Anonymous

    November 2, 2017 @ 3:18 pm

  5. Will Sutton

    November 2, 2017 @ 3:42 pm


    Easy enough: independent contractor.

    I don’t think firms are liable for contractor’s behavior in contractor’s hotel room. Also, in “creative” industries, a lot of executive power can be still be wielded from the outside consultant – “The movie is greenlit, pending review from the people at ShowerBoy LLC.”

  6. George

    November 2, 2017 @ 4:24 pm


    There was also a complaint 2 years ago.

    “She said Oreskes hijacked a career counseling session into a three-hour-long dinner that delved into deeply personal territory,”

    Note to self: when giving career counseling, avoid delving into personal territory.

  7. Anonymous

    November 2, 2017 @ 4:42 pm


    Progressive male looses reason to be progressive. And marx failed him too: marx promised demise of opressive bourgeois family, but it is lower income and progressive families that are unprportionally in shambles. Situtation similar to lore of old, not shiny progressive future!

  8. Uber Alles

    November 2, 2017 @ 5:27 pm

  9. PJay

    November 2, 2017 @ 6:25 pm


    Clearly the only solution to this systemic sexism is to replace the men in power with females who can adequately sexually police the passive and self-abnegating sexual predators that infest their organization.

    Which females? Preferably menopausal white uppre middle class females, of course.

  10. GermanL

    November 2, 2017 @ 8:05 pm


    What I don’t get is, with all these revelations and accusations that are taken at face value – why didn’t these liberal women get upset when Trump reminded people about Bill Clinton’s harrassment? Where were they when it came time to ‘believe the victim’ ?


    How can anyone stomach this hypocrite? How can anyone *vote* for this hypocrite? I’m surprised so many HRC supporters can look the other way when the hypocrisy is so glaring.

  11. Neal

    November 2, 2017 @ 9:08 pm


    GermanL: The hypocrisy works both ways since there are many people who seem to believe that Bill Clinton is the only man who has ever done anything.

  12. philg

    November 2, 2017 @ 10:17 pm


    Neal: if there are “many” who believe this perhaps you can find us a few examples. Some of them must have expressed their belief on Facebook or a web site, right?

  13. Neal

    November 2, 2017 @ 11:31 pm


    philg: I’ve seen virtually nothing on this topic one way or the other in my Facebook feed. Perhaps that is partially because I don’t spend much time there, but I think it is also partially because my feed is very different from the way you describe yours. I’m not claiming there isn’t anyone in my feed who could pass for one of your Facebook friends (as you describe them here), but there aren’t all that many. I’ll take your skepticism of my impression that there are “many” such people as an indication that my impression could be wrong which I would count as a good thing.

    Of course I have the impression that there are also many people who’ve only ever been concerned about sexual harassment when it was Bill Clinton who was doing it. Do you think that impression is mistaken?

  14. philg

    November 3, 2017 @ 8:36 am


    Neal: “I have the impression that there are also many people who’ve only ever been concerned about sexual harassment when it was Bill Clinton who was doing it”

    Where did you get this impression if not from something written that you can cite? Do you have a lot of relatives, friends, and neighbors who have stated this point of view?

    [I personally have never heard anyone express this point of view, but I’m not sure that the framing even makes sense. My memory of Bill Clinton’s happy times with Monica Lewinsky in the White House does not include anyone talking about “sexual harassment.” That was the 20th century and the Zeitgeist was that women were adults with agency (see https://blogs.harvard.edu/philg/2017/06/12/are-women-the-new-children/ for how times have changed). So Mr. Clinton and Ms. Lewinsky were primarily characterized as engaging in “sex,” not “sexual harassment.” I did a quick Google search and found https://www.vanityfair.com/magazine/1998/05/williams199805 “Clearly the Monica Lewinsky scandal is not a case of illegal sexual harassment.”]

  15. Neal

    November 3, 2017 @ 10:59 am


    philg: Calling different cases with different evidence differently is not evidence of hypocrisy. The analysis may or may not be correct, but it isn’t hypocrisy. I’m not claiming there isn’t hypocrisy around Bill Clinton, only that “Clearly the Monica Lewinsky scandal is not a case of illegal sexual harassment.” isn’t such an example.

  16. philg

    November 3, 2017 @ 11:16 am


    Neal: I wasn’t citing the Vanity Fair article as an example of hypocrisy. It is an example of how people in the 20th century didn’t necessarily see an adult man and woman having sex in an office as “sexual HARASSMENT” and therefore your statement “there are also many people who’ve only ever been concerned about sexual HARASSMENT when it was Bill Clinton who was doing it” didn’t make sense.

  17. Neal

    November 3, 2017 @ 11:32 am


    philg: The Vanity Fair article you referenced identifies several sexual HARASSMENT cases including an actual sexual HARASSMENT lawsuit against Bill Clinton. If you are claiming that nobody in the 20th century thought that what Bill Clinton did was sexual HARASSMENT (and therefore “there are also many people who’ve only ever been concerned about sexual HARASSMENT when it was Bill Clinton who was doing it” doesn’t make sense), the evidence you’ve cited does not support the contention.

  18. philg

    November 3, 2017 @ 11:40 am


    Neal: I didn’t keep track of all of Bill Clinton’s adventures. My comments are limited to his adventure with Monica Lewinsky, which I suspect would be characterized differently today. (Maybe Monica herself now considers that it was harassment? See http://www.newsweek.com/juanita-broaddrick-monica-lewinskys-metoo-your-silence-was-deafening-688924 )

  19. Neal

    November 3, 2017 @ 11:53 am


    philg: I’m not seeing how #18 is relevant to your claim in #16 that my statement in #11 doesn’t make sense.

  20. GermanL

    November 3, 2017 @ 3:19 pm


    @Neal: “The hypocrisy works both ways since there are many people who seem to believe that Bill Clinton is the only man who has ever done anything.”

    I guess I can understand why you hold him in higher esteem than Trump.

    “Bill Clinton a stark reminder of a more dignified genteel administration…
    When vaginas were probed by cigar… not by hand.”

    –Triumph the Insult Comic Dog.

  21. Neal

    November 3, 2017 @ 4:21 pm


    GermanL: I didn’t say anything about Trump. I do think there are important differences between the particular allegations against Bill Clinton and those against Donald Trump which make the allegations against Bill Clinton less important than those against Donald Trump. However, I can certainly see how others might be less charitable to President Clinton and see hypocrisy in the statements of his defenders. I would expect people who had such problems with Bill Clinton’s alleged behavior to have the same problems with Donald Trump’s alleged behavior. That the same party which was willing to hound and eventually impeach Bill Clinton over this kind of behavior gave us Donald Trump is to me evidence of a most blatant hypocrisy. That said, I also think that this kind of private behavior is less important for evaluating the Presidential leadership of either Bill Clinton or Donald Trump than many other factors. It is on the balance of those other factors upon which I forge my relative opinion of the two men.

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