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Sexual harassment and assault

LA Times suspends Beijing bureau chief while it investigates sexual misconduct allegation

Senior journalist investigated after colleague who says he ‘crossed a line’ becomes second woman to make allegations against reporter

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 16 May, 2018, 4:26pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 16 May, 2018, 10:40pm

An American newspaper has suspended its Beijing bureau chief and launched an investigation into an allegation of sexual misconduct.

The Los Angeles Times suspended Jonathan Kaiman on Tuesday after former Beijing-based journalist Felicia Sonmez sent a letter to the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China on Monday detailing “problematic behaviour” during a sexual encounter with Kaiman in September.

He has denied the claims.

In the letter, Sonmez said she and Kaiman attended a party in Beijing and left together on her scooter while heavily intoxicated.

She alleges that as she drove toward Kaiman’s flat, he repeatedly groped her without her consent.

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Once they arrived, she said, he backed her against a wall and began undressing himself in public while ignoring her protests.

“Even though parts of the evening were consensual, while on the way, Jon escalated things in a way that crossed the line,” wrote Sonmez.

She said that the two then engaged in intercourse in his flat, but that she was uncertain about the circumstances.

“Many parts of the night remain hazy,” she wrote. “I am devastated by the fact that I was not more sober so that I could say with absolute certainty whether what happened that night was rape.”

Sonmez, 35, did not file a police report or alert the Los Angeles Times after the incident.

When contacted by AP on Tuesday, Sonmez, who now lives in Washington, said she decided to come forward because “I knew that not speaking out about it was going to do far more damage”.

In a statement to the Los Angeles Times, Kaiman, 31, said “all of the acts we engaged in were mutually consensual”.

“My perception and Ms Sonmez’s perception of that night’s events differ greatly,” he said. “It’s unfortunate that, in hindsight, she feels the way she does about that night.

“I am a proponent of women’s rights and believe that every woman has a right to be heard and to tell her truth.”

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Jim Kirk, the paper’s editor-in-chief, said it “takes these accusations seriously and is investigating”.

The latest allegation comes a few months after a different woman, Laura Tucker, accused Kaiman of pressuring her to have sex in 2013.

After Tucker, a former housemate of Kaiman in Beijing, wrote about the encounter on blogging platform Medium in January, Kaiman resigned as president of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China and posted an apology on Twitter.

The club issued a statement to its members on Tuesday, saying it “strongly opposes acts of sexual misconduct against any person”.