Glenn Thrush has not written his last New York Times byline.
In an announcement released Wednesday afternoon, New York Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet said that Thrush, a star White House reporter who’d been suspended after a Vox.com story on misconduct toward women, would return to work for the newspaper. “We have completed our investigation into Glenn Thrush’s behavior, which included dozens of interviews with people both inside and outside the newsroom. We found that Glenn has behaved in ways that we do not condone,” Baquet said in the statement. “While we believe that Glenn has acted offensively, we have decided that he does not deserve to be fired.”
That said, Thrush will lose the position for which he left Politico this year in favor of the Times: the White House beat, where he became famous via a “Saturday Night Live” doppelganger. Along with Maggie Haberman and other White House correspondents, Thrush this year produced penetrating accounts of President Trump’s adjustment to the White House, an oeuvre that included a much-discussed portrait of the president in bathrobe.
Written by former Politico colleague Laura McGann, the Vox.com piece alleged that Thrush behaved inappropriately toward a young Politico staffer after a June party in Rosslyn; placed a wet kiss on a Politico colleague in 2013; and, at an event in 2012, caught McGann herself “off guard, put his hand on my thigh, and suddenly started kissing me.” Thrush contested McGann’s account, though he called the June incident “a life-changing event. The woman involved was upset by my actions and for that I am deeply sorry.”
Charlotte Behrendt, senior manager for employee relations in the New York Times newsroom, conducted an investigation of several weeks, querying staffers about Thrush’s conduct at the paper. This is the sanction that the newspaper decided upon: “[W]e have suspended him for two months and removed him from the White House beat. He will receive training designed to improve his workplace conduct. In addition, Glenn is undergoing counseling and substance abuse rehabilitation on his own. We will reinstate him as a reporter on a new beat upon his return.” During the suspension, Thrush has not been paid, and he’ll be back at work next month.
Regarding his misconduct, Thrush told Vox.com: “Over the past several years, I have responded to a succession of personal and health crises by drinking heavily,” he said. “During that period, I have done things that I am ashamed of, actions that have brought great hurt to my family and friends. I have not taken a drink since June 15, 2017, have resumed counseling and will soon begin out-patient treatment for alcoholism. I am working hard to repair the damage I have done.”
The Erik Wemple Blog asked Baquet for the rationale behind moving Thrush from the White House beat. He said that he’d be sticking with his statement, much as he dislikes sounding like “one of those government press officers.” There are a few possibilities here: Maybe the Times thought that denying Thrush a return to the White House would send a scolding message; maybe the Times feared the optics of placing a reporter with his own history of sexual misconduct on a beat that’s filled with it, thanks to the admitted sexually assaultive ways of the 45th president; maybe the Times determined that a less pressure-filled beat would better allow Thrush to complete his treatment for alcoholism.
Eloquent denunciations of the newspaper’s decision aren’t hard to find.
Okay, except that the Times’s scoops on sexual harassment — on Harvey Weinstein and Bill O’Reilly, for example — document behavior far more egregious than the allegations against Thrush. Weinstein, for instance, has more than 80 accusers, and their stories involved forced oral sex and a serial pattern of assaults. At Fox News, O’Reilly’s creep factor soared, with one accuser bringing forth “allegations of repeated harassment, a nonconsensual sexual relationship and the sending of gay pornography and other sexually explicit material,” according to the Times. So: Only in a world where everything is either black or white is the Times’s decision a “farce.”
That said, it may indeed be a bad call: Given the world we live in, Thrush may well end up on a beat covering powerful men, men who prey on young women. What then? And women at the Times — everywhere, as a matter of fact — have the right to go about their business free of unwanted wet ear kisses. It’s clear that the New York Times, after a thorough investigation, is confident that Thrush won’t be repeating such a scenario in its offices.