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Sexual harassment and assault

New York Review of Books editor Ian Buruma exits amid outrage over sex harasser Jian Ghomeshi’s essay

‘The exact nature of his behaviour – how much consent was involved – I have no idea’

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 20 September, 2018, 9:46am
UPDATED : Thursday, 20 September, 2018, 9:13pm

Ian Buruma, the editor of the prestigious New York Review of Books, has left his position after being roundly criticised for publishing an essay condemned as insulting toward the #MeToo movement and victims of sexual abuse.

Nicolas During, a spokesman for the literary magazine, said on Wednesday Buruma “is no longer the editor” but would not confirm whether he had resigned or been fired.

The 66-year-old’s departure followed a wave of controversy surrounding an article written by the Canadian former broadcaster Jian Ghomeshi, who lost his high-profile job with CBC after more than 20 women accused him of sexual misconduct. He was accused of a range of violent and non-consensual behaviour, including choking, slapping and punching women in the head.

Ghomeshi, who said his sexual behaviour was consensual, was subsequently acquitted of sexual assault in a criminal trial in 2016. But he signed a “peace bond” that required him to apologise in court for his “sexually inappropriate” behaviour towards a former co-worker he had harassed, in order to avoid another criminal trial. The woman accused Ghomeshi of grabbing her from behind at work, and repeatedly thrusting his pelvis into her.

In the essay – titled “Reflections from a Hashtag” and published online on Friday – Ghomeshi muses on his life after the allegations, his pariah status among former friends and colleagues, his feelings of remorse and thoughts of suicide.

The article was immediately slammed by one of his accusers, Linda Redgrave, who underlined the gravity of the accusations against Ghomeshi and accused him seeking sympathy. The controversy quickly spiralled on social media.

In an interview with Slate, Buruma defended his decision to publish, telling the website: “I’m no judge of the rights and wrongs of every allegation. How can I be? All I know is that in a court of law he was acquitted, and there is no proof he committed a crime.”

“The exact nature of his behaviour – how much consent was involved – I have no idea, nor is it really my concern,” he said.

“My concern is what happens to somebody who has not been found guilty in any criminal sense but who perhaps deserves social opprobrium, but how long should that last, what form it should take, etc.”

Despite Buruma’s departure, the article will still appear in the Review’s next print edition, said During.

Buruma took over the editorship of the New York Review of Books in September 2017 following the death of its co-founder, Robert Silvers.

Before joining the magazine, the Dutchman had worked for the Far Eastern Economic Review in Hong Kong, and The Spectator in London. He is the author of more than 20 books.