The number of current and former employees alleging that On Point host Tom Ashbrook engaged in unwanted touching, verbal abuse, and/or intimidation has increased to at least 23, WBUR News reports.
Since a group of 11 young men and women filed a 15-page document on Dec. 8 alleging that the NPR host bullied and publicly humiliated staffers on the show and gave “creepy” sex talks, hugs, and back or neck rubs after reprimands, 12 more employees have shared their experiences with a WBUR reporter, according to the public radio station.
WBUR News reports that the new allegations range from a female producer saying Ashbrook crushed a script she gave him into a ball and threw it at her to another female producer recalling that the host muted his microphone in the studio to complain about a guest who wasn’t in the room, referring to the guest by using an expletive and an offensive term for female genitalia.
Others who worked as producers told WBUR reporter Martha Bebinger that they would at times leave the station in tears or get messages from Ashbrook after hours following up on what he called their “bulls***” efforts.
The On Point host called the new allegations “simply untrue” in a statement to WBUR News.
“Yes, I could be a tough boss, and yes we sometimes had editorial discussions that included sensitive topics,” Ashbrook said. “But these new allegations suggest behavior that is totally contrary to the way I try to live my life every day and treat those around me.”
WBUR News reports that the complaints span the 16-year history of the nationally syndicated NPR show and that 15 of the women and men say they went to station management to ask for help with Ashbrook’s behavior. Nine of the former or current WBUR employees told Bebinger that they reported the alleged abuse to more than one manager and said they felt abandoned by the lack of meaningful action.
Producers say they received responses from managers including, “You shouldn’t have set him off,” “Next time don’t talk back,” “You were warned about Tom,” and “Some people can handle Tom, others can’t,” according to the public radio station. Four producers told Bebinger it was implied they could lose their jobs if they continued to complain about Ashbrook.
“I believe the swift response to these allegations speaks for itself and the seriousness with which the university and WBUR management takes these and all concerns brought to our attention,” WBUR General Manager Charlie Kravetz said in a statement to WBUR News. “We must let these allegations proceed unhindered by any interference. Once the investigations are complete we will determine how to proceed.”
Read the full report at WBUR News.