NPR Top News Editor David Sweeney Out over Sexual Harassment Accusations

National Public Radio, whose Washington, D.C., headquarters are shown, has seen two senior news executives depart in recent weeks after allegations of sexual misconduct. (Charles Dharapak / Associated Press)
Charles Dharapak/Associated Press

David Sweeney, National Public Radio’s (NPR) chief news editor, left the taxpayer-funded outlet Tuesday after a third female journalist accused him of inappropriate behavior.

According to NPR’s own reporting, an anonymous former NPR employee accused Sweeney of “unexpectedly kissing” her after he asked her to pull over a car they were driving on assignment 15 years ago. A second anonymous NPR journalist alleges that five years later, in 2007, Sweeney leaned in for a kiss while the two had drinks at a Washington bar.

Lauren Hodges, a current NPR editor went on the record. Hodges makes no claim Sweeney ever touched her inappropriately but gave her “unwanted attention” and “unsolicited gifts.” These gifts were given, allegedly, “in a way that made her deeply uncomfortable.”

On Tuesday, Hodges circulated an email around the NPR offices, expressing her pleasure with Sweeney’s ouster. “I hope it provides a loud, clear message to anyone struggling with harassment…and, more importantly, to those who think they can get away with it,” it read.

“David Sweeney is no longer on staff,” an email to NPR staff from their acting senior vice president of news, Chris Turpin, read, continuing:

This is a difficult time for our newsroom and I’m committed to supporting all of you as we move forward. I know you appreciate that there are some questions I cannot answer in keeping with our practice to not comment on personnel issues, but I will do my best to address those I can.

The exact circumstances of Sweeney’s departure are not clear, but it appears he resigned or was dismissed in what will be the second NPR News top brass casualty in the ongoing outpouring of sexual harassment allegations across media, entertainment, and other high-profile industries. NPR Senior Vice President of News and Editorial Director Michael Oreskes resigned at the start of the month after two women accused him of “forcibly kissing” them two decades earlier when he worked at the New York Times, pursuing them while implying he could help them with their careers. According to NPR, some of their female employees later claimed Oreskes “left them deeply uncomfortable by embarking on intimate conversations over extended dinners or by engaging them repeatedly in exchanges via unsolicited private messages.”

Both Sweeney and Oreskes had ascended to the top of their profession. After years working for the BBC, Sweeney climbed to the top editorial position at NPR News. Before taking his own high-level position at NPR, Oreskes was a top editor at the Associated Press and the New York Times’s Washington bureau chief.

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