The Brookings Institution has suspended senior fellow Leon Wieseltier without pay following a decision by Emerson Collective to pull the plug on a literary journal over the longtime cultural critic’s “past inappropriate workplace conduct.” The announcement came in an email from Brookings President Strobe Talbott: “As you may have seen in press reports last night, Leon Wieseltier, has issued a statement acknowledging and apologizing for past misconduct in his treatment of female colleagues. He has been suspended without pay from from his position at the Institution, effective immediately, while we gather information,” wrote Talbott.
Emerson Collective, headed by Laurene Powell Jobs, issued a statement to Politico’s Michael Calderone: “Upon receiving information related to past inappropriate workplace conduct, Emerson Collective ended its business relationship with Leon Wieseltier, including a journal planned for publication under his editorial direction. The production and distribution of the journal has been ended.”
The name of the journal was “Idea,” and its first issue was due to be published this month. The magazine’s staff has been disbanded.
Chatter about Wieseltier’s behavior toward women during his high-profile three-decade tenure as the literary editor of the New Republic began circulating after the New York Times revealed the plume of sexual-harassment allegations against Hollywood titan Harvey Weinstein. According to Calderone, Wieseltier was included in a much-discussed, anonymously authored and selectively circulated list of “Sh–ty Media Men” with histories of sexual misconduct in the workplace. Wieseltier had reportedly made “unwanted” advances toward an employee of the management company in the New Republic’s office building.
In a statement, Wieseltier said, “For my offenses against some of my colleagues in the past I offer a shaken apology and ask for their forgiveness. The women with whom I worked are smart and good people. I am ashamed to know that I made any of them feel demeaned and disrespected. I assure them that I will not waste this reckoning.”
“And I am profoundly sorry to my extraordinary collaborators at the journal we began together that the misdeeds of my past have made it impossible to go forward,” he said. “My gratitude to them is boundless.”
Wieseltier was named as Brookings’s Isaiah Berlin Senior Fellow in Culture and Policy in March 2015. Upon his accession, Talbott said, “We’re proud to have Leon, a major figure in literary journalism, join our community of scholars. We have established the Senior Fellowship he holds in honor of Isaiah Berlin’s eminence as a political theorist, philosopher, and historian of ideas. Sir Isaiah’s humanist values, commitment to civil discourse, and intellectual leadership resonate with the legacy and aspirations of Brookings. They also resonate with Leon’s career and gifts. He combines a capacious intelligence with a uniquely powerful and passionate voice. With his arrival, Brookings will have a fresh perspective and deep-rooted expertise on the intersection between culture and public policy, thereby bringing a new dimension to our mission.”
Update 6:00 p.m. Oct. 25: Brookings has announced that Wieseltier is “no longer employed” at the think tank.