Don Hazen, Executive Editor of AlterNet, (L) and Chellie Pingree, Common Cause President.
Spencer Platt / Getty Images
Don Hazen, an executive at left-leaning media outlets since the 1980s and founder of AlterNet, resigned late Friday from the website after a BuzzFeed News report detailing allegations from six women who said they were sexually harassed by him.
The women told BuzzFeed News Hazen touched them inappropriately while working at AlterNet, discussed their sex lives, made unwanted advances, and sent explicit emails and photographs, including pictures of his erect penis.
“After 25 years of dedicated service as the leader of the Independent media Institute and Alternet, I have decided to submit my resignation, in order to best support his organization, whose mission and goals I care about deeply,” Hazen wrote to the board in an email Friday night.
Hazen was placed on indefinite leave after the BuzzFeed News report was published on Thursday.
“The Board of Directors of the Independent Media Institute takes these allegations extremely seriously,” the board said in a statement at the time. “We are now investigating the allegations in detail.”
In an interview with BuzzFeed News, Hazen said he might have “lost track of some boundaries I needed to keep” when discussing editorial topics with reporters such as sex and drugs.
AlterNet had an early presence online as a news outlet in the 1990s, which Hazen said had at one point syndicated 150 newspapers in the US and Canada and had up to 7 million unique visitors.
Hazen was for a time publisher of Mother Jones as well.
The women who spoke with BuzzFeed News said several of the incidents dated back to 2008 to AlterNet's San Francisco and New York offices.
One woman, Kristen Gwynne, said Hazen helped start her career in publishing as a journalist, offering her an internship and later a full-time job.
“There was inappropriate touching — hugs and kisses on the cheek at the office,” she said. “He would be pointing and somehow my boob was in the way of the direction he was aiming for.”
In another incident, Gwynne said Hazen told her he had seen a picture of her on the internet, then showed her a picture of a nude porn actor.
Another journalist, who now works for Democracy Now!, said Hazen would require mandatory in-person meetings when she was in town, which she referred to as “mandatory sexual harassment meetings.”
During those meetings, she said Hazen would ask about her sex life and find excuses to touch her.
“He would kiss me on the cheek or neck without my consent even as I pushed him away and strained physically to avoid his touch,” she said.
In a message posted on its website Friday night, AlterNet's board of directors confirmed Hazen's resignation.
“Don has had a long and distinguished career, and his stewardship of AlterNet has been dedicated and imaginative for more than two decades,” the statement read. “We all regret his tenure ended this way, but we want to reassure our readers and the broader AlterNet community that we are deeply confident about the future of AlterNet and are dedicated to continuing to work for its stability and success.”