Vice Media is exploring claims from a Daily Beast report that one of their chief officers sexually assaulted a female worker. The story, distributed last week, said it met a few present and previous workers at Vice who said they worked in a culture of harassment. The Daily Beast report referred to previous Los Angeles-based partner Phoebe Barghouty, who blamed then-boss Kaj Larsen of touching her and engaging in lewd behavior in 2015. She said later she felt he debilitated after she had gone to human resources with concerns.
“We do not tolerate harassment, abusive behavior, assault or retaliation and we will discipline anyone who engages in such conduct through a range of actions, including termination, as appropriate. We have immediately begun an investigation into this matter,” a Vice spokesperson said this afternoon.
Barghouty brought the matter up to then-Editor in Chief Jason Mojica, telling him she didn’t want to be in the same room with Larson, but Mojica deflected her concerns. “The thing about working in this industry,” Barghouty says Mojica told her, according to the report, “is that we have people going into war zones and the only people willing to do that are sociopaths. And you just have to deal with that because that’s the only kind of person who can get that story.
Mojica refuted the substance of the call to the Daily Beast, as well as Barghouty’s claim that he asked her if she was “flexible” while they attended an L.A. Press Club event. Barghouty and Larson are no longer with the company; Larson’s contract was not renewed last year. Mojica is currently heading Vice’s feature documentary unit.
Vice Media has all its new employees sign a “non-traditional workplace agreement” which states in part that “While working at Vice, I acknowledge that I may be exposed to highly provocative material, some of it containing extremely explicit sexual and controversial content.”
But the spokesperson said the agreement “does not in any way sanction conduct that is disrespectful or biased, and we will investigate all allegations of such behavior, including any incidents where employees purportedly attempted to justify their conduct through the agreement.
The nature of Vice’s content runs the gamut, from travelogues and news series to more provocative programming like our shows exploring drug culture, Weediquette and Bong Appétit. A non-traditional workplace agreement is often used by companies to certify employees’ comfort with content that could be considered edgy. However, it does not in any way sanction conduct that is disrespectful or biased, and we will investigate all allegations of such behavior, including any incidents where employees purportedly attempted to justify their conduct through the agreement. We have immediately began reviewing this matter.”