The former Observer columnist Nick Cohen, who attacked me numerous times during the pandemic for being a lockdown sceptic, has left the newspaper with a financial settlement following complaints of sexual harassment that spanned a period of 17 years. When he departed, he was praised by his bosses for his “incisive” and “brilliant” journalist – such as this piece entitled ‘It is only a matter of time before we turn on the unvaccinated’ – with no mention of the seven women who claimed they were harassed by him both inside and outside the workplace. Guardian News and Media (GNM), which owns the Observer and the Guardian, has now been accused of a cover-up by the New York Times. The Telegraph has more.
Some of his alleged victims have accused GNM of failing to act on complaints they made to managers over a period of years.
For his part, Mr. Cohen has claimed that his downfall was the result of a bitter internal row over transgender rights that has opened a schism at the centre of The Guardian.
The fallout from the Cohen affair has also prompted recriminations at the Financial Times (FT), where an investigation by a prominent journalist into the goings-on at the Guardian was spiked by the business newspaper’s editor.
The claim has been made by the New York Times (NYT), which reported that Madison Marriage, an FT journalist, had investigated the Cohen affair and had on the record interviews with two named women and documentary evidence on others, but Roula Khalaf, the FT’s editor, chose not to publish it.
Sources told the NYT that Ms Khalaf said Mr. Cohen did not have a high enough profile in the business world to make him a story for the publication.
Both newspapers now risk allegations of hypocrisy after holding powerful men to account in their reporting of the MeToo movement.
The Guardian exposed allegations of sexual misconduct by Tim Westwood, a former radio DJ, in a joint investigation with BBC Three last year, and Ms Marriage won an award in 2018 for exposing the behaviour of the wealthy elite at men-only charity dinners known as The Presidents Club.
According to the NYT, which has spoken to several of the women allegedly targeted by Mr Cohen, The Guardian was less proactive when it came to investigating complaints against its own employees.
Lucy Siegle, a former Guardian journalist, told the NYT that she had made a complaint about Mr Cohen in 2018 for “groping her in the newsroom” in about 2001.
The NYT said Mr Cohen had grabbed her bottom, and that five other women had described similar encounters happening in pubs between 2008 and 2015. A seventh said that Mr Cohen had repeatedly offered to send her explicit photographs in 2018.
The NYT said Mr Cohen’s reputation was “widely known in the newsroom”, to the extent that some of his female colleagues used a different entrance to a pub near the office “to avoid being groped by him”.