Detroit Journalist Stephen Henderson Traces Firing to 2 Encounters

  • Detroit Free Press Veteran Weighs Legal Action
  • Skipper Quits at ESPN, Citing Substance Abuse
  • Parrish to Leave as Arizona Republic President
  • PBS Fires Back at Tavis Smiley’s Denials
Stephen Henderson

Stephen Henderson, fired Friday as columnist and editorial page editor at the Detroit Free Press, told radio listeners Monday that his dismissal stemmed from “social situations outside of work several years ago” that “were deemed inappropriate.”

Henderson said, “I want to apologize to the women involved. It was bad judgment, on my part, to have engaged in either situation,” but added that neither woman had come forward nor plans to take any action.

However, Henderson said, he is exploring legal action.

Henderson, 47, worked at the Free Press for 18 years over three decades and won a Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 2014. He also has a daily Detroit radio show and a weekly television program. WDET-FM, which hosts Henderson’s radio show, said it had no basis to end Henderson’s employment there. The station posted Henderson’s statement on its website.


General Manager Michelle Srbinovich appeared with Henderson Monday morning on WDET “and was interviewed by the show’s senior producer, Laura Weber Davis, about why the station had not followed the Free Press in ending his contract hosting job,” Chad Livengood reported for Crain’s Detroit Business.

Srbinovich said in a statement, “To date, WDET and our license holder Wayne State University have not received any complaints against Henderson during his time as a contracted host.


“However, given the action taken by the Free Press and our commitment to providing a safe environment for all of our employees, WDET will conduct an independent, station-wide investigation to ensure that our staff has the opportunity to share their concerns and report any incidents that require further examination. Any situation that compromises university policies will be dealt with swiftly and decisively. . . .”

Allan Lengel of Deadline Detroit observed Monday, “The Freep’s vague language about unspecified ‘inappropriate behavior’ in its Friday announcement created an opening for wild assumptions.


“A conservative publication, The Daily Caller, suggests with a posed photo that Henderson is a breast-groper or accused of similarly vile actions. Online sniping used words such as ‘pervert’ and ‘abuser of women.’

“Others voiced surprise and cautioned against speculation. ‘I want to thank everyone who has reached out in the last few days for support, empathy, critical inquiry,’ Henderson posted Monday morning on Facebook. . . .”


As Charles E. Ramirez reported Monday in the Detroit News, “Henderson’s termination comes amid accusations made against him by Detroit Pastor Rev. W.J. Rideout III.

“Rideout also leveled accusations against WXYZ-TV (Channel 7) news anchor Malcom Maddox. Maddox was placed on leave earlier this month amid allegations of sexual harassment leveled by the Detroit pastor.


Rideout, meanwhile, was suspended from his show on WFDF-AM (910) after questions were raised about the validity of his claims of sexual harassment against WXYZ.

“The alleged sexual harassment victims referenced by Rideout have not been identified.”


Henderson said, “the allegation prompted the newspaper to conduct its own review of my work and interactions with colleagues, a review I encouraged and supported.

“I spoke candidly and openly about every potentially relevant interaction I could recall with a colleague.


“The newspaper’s review of my ten years in management at the Free Press found instances with two female employees in which my interactions, in social situations outside of work several years ago, were deemed inappropriate.

“One situation involved sexually themed conversations with an employee; I had encouraged that employee to disclose this interaction. In the other situation, a co-worker who was a manager in another department reported two rejected advances that she said made her uncomfortable. . . .”


Don Aucoin, Ty Burr, Jeremy Eichler, Devra First and Matthew Gilbert, Boston Globe: Globe critics’ roundtable: How do we weigh sex misconduct allegations when taking the measure of art?

Joi-Marie McKenzie, Sabina Ghebremedhin and Renee Henson, ABC News: Tavis Smiley fires back at sexual misconduct allegations: ‘PBS made a huge mistake’


Skipper Quits at ESPN, Citing Substance Abuse

John Skipper has resigned as president of ESPN because of substance abuse issues, the company announced on Monday morning,” Chris Chavez reported for Sports Illustrated.


“ ‘Today I have resigned from my duties as President of ESPN,’ Skipper announced. ‘I have had a wonderful career at the Walt Disney Company and am grateful for the many opportunities and friendships. I owe a debt to many, but most profoundly Michael Lynton, George Bodenheimer and Bob Iger. I have struggled for many years with a substance addiction. I have decided that the most important thing I can do right now is to take care of my problem.’ . . .”

Kevin Merida, hired by Skipper to lead the Undefeated, a web site fusing sports, race and culture, said by email, “John Skipper is one of the finest leaders I have worked with in my entire career in this industry. He inspires great confidence. It was his brilliant vision to start The Undefeated, and he is largely the reason I came to ESPN. I will miss him tremendously, but my heart will stay with him. “


Hugo Balta, senior director, Hispanic initiatives and a past president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, messaged, “. . . John is many things, among them a champion of diversity and inclusion...he leaves a solid foundation for the continued work in providing a working environment which promotes different ideas, voices and experiences that is reflected in the daily content and programming showcased across platforms and networks. I will miss him.”

ESPN’s statement said, “George Bodenheimer, ESPN’s president from 1998 to 2011 and its executive chairman until May 2014, will take over as the acting chairman of the company for the next 90 days to help Disney chairman and chief executive officer Bob Iger find Skipper’s replacement. . . .”


Richard Deitsch, Sports Illustrated: John Skipper’s Resignation as ESPN President a Shock to Network Staffers, Sports Media World

Parrish to Leave as Arizona Republic President

Mi-Ann Parrish

Mi-Ai Parrish, president of The Arizona Republic and, will resign that position effective Jan. 5 to fill an endowed faculty chair at Arizona State University,” Russ Wiles reported Monday for the Republic and

“Parrish, 47, has been a prominent voice in the community while serving as the media company’s leader for the past two years.


“ ‘It’s important for me to make a difference, and I feel I can make a bigger difference for the industry I care so much about in this (new) role,’ she said.

“ASU created the endowed faculty position at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication in honor of Sue Clark-Johnson. Clark-Johnson was a former president of the newspaper division of Gannett Co. Inc. and former publisher of The Republic and Clark-Johnson died in January 2015 at age 67. . . .”


Wiles also reported, “She previously had served as publisher of the Kansas City Star and, before that, of the Idaho Statesman in Boise, Idaho.

“She wrote a powerful column responding to threats after The Republic endorsed a Democratic presidential candidate for the first time in the paper’s 125-year history.


“Last month, during a spate of sexual-harassment accusations made against high-profile men in politics, broadcasting and the film industry, Parrish revealed that she too had received unwanted comments, disclosing that Arizona Rep. Don Shooter had made a demeaning sexual and racial remark to her during a business meeting in 2016.

“Parrish is the first Korean-American publisher of a major metropolitan daily newspaper in the U.S. . . .”


PBS Fires Back at Tavis Smiley’s Denials

Tavis Smiley, who was recently called out by PBS over ‘troubling allegations” about his conduct, staunchly defended his behavior and his integrity Monday and upbraided the network that suspended the distribution of his show,” Joe Sterling reported Monday for CNN.


“ ‘I have never groped. I have never coerced or exposed myself to anyone inappropriately,’ he told ABC’s ‘Good Morning America’ in an exclusive interview.

“ ‘I celebrate and applaud the women that came out and told the truth and lead us to create healthy workspaces. At the same time, I want to make sure we don’t lose all proportionality in this because if we do, people end up guilty by accusation.’


“Smiley, 53, is a longtime radio commentator, TV talk show host and author. His 30-minute interview show, ‘Tavis Smiley,’ has aired weeknights on PBS since 2004. He is now one of a growing list of public figures facing misconduct allegations.

“PBS, which suspended distribution of the ‘Tavis Smiley’ show last week amid ‘troubling allegations’ against the host, fired back after Smiley’s appearance on ABC.


“Tavis Smiley needs to get his story straight,’ a spokeswoman for PBS said Monday in an email to CNN’s Brian Stelter.

“ ‘First, today on “Good Morning America,” Mr. Smiley acknowledged he has had multiple sexual encounters with his employees... This contradicts his Facebook post from last week, where he cited only one previous relationship with an employee,’ the PBS statement said.


“The public broadcasting organization said last week it had hired an outside law firm to handle an investigation into the matter ‘following receipt of a complaint.’

“The totality of the investigation, which included Mr. Smiley, revealed a pattern of multiple relationships with subordinates over many years, and other conduct inconsistent with the values and standards of PBS,” the statement said. . . .”


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Richard Prince’s Journal-isms originates from Washington. It began in print before most of us knew what the internet was, and it would like to be referred to as a “column.” Any views expressed in the column are those of the person or organization quoted and not those of any other entity.


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