Longreads Best of 2017: Investigative Reporting on Sexual Misconduct

Photo treatment by Kjell Reigstad, Photos by Jeff Christensen (AP) and Joel Ryan (AP)

It was a year in which investigations loomed over us as we woke up each day and absorbed the news. Former FBI director Robert Mueller began investigating whether Donald Trump’s presidential campaign had any links to the Russian government and its efforts to interfere with the 2016 presidential election. The opioid crisis was covered by a few outlets wondering who, exactly, is profiting while countless people are dying. But it is the investigations into sexual misconduct perpetrated by powerful men across several industries that has had the most significant impact in 2017. And much of the reporting has been led by The New York Times.

In early January, Times journalists Emily Steel and Michael S. Schmidt reported that Fox News had spent millions of dollars to settle sexual harassment allegations against Bill O’Reilly. By April, the two reporters began publishing stories on a near-daily basis: O’Reilly continued to thrive at Fox News despite five women coming forward with allegations against him; advertisers announced they were withdrawing their ads from O’Reilly’s show because of the Times reports; President Trump defended O’Reilly and was immediately criticized; 21st Century Fox enlisted a law firm to investigate a harassment claim against O’Reilly. In the third week of April, after all this rigorous reporting, O’Reilly was finally forced out at Fox News.

O’Reilly’s fall was a catalyst for a long-needed house cleaning at the media corporation. In May, the Times reported that Fox News co-president Bill Shine was also forced out, accused in several lawsuits of covering up the scandals at the network and dismissing concerns from women who spoke out.

A shift appeared to be transpiring: Institutions that had customarily protected their own interests by insulating men in power and enabling their abusive behavior began taking allegations more seriously (and it is important to note here, with clear evidence from the settlements that have been made public, that it’s not that women haven’t come forward to report abuse in the past, but that their concerns have been routinely shrugged off, and that they’ve been silenced).

Emily Steel’s tireless reporting continued: In July, with her colleague Kevin Draper, the Times reported that Jamie Horowitz, head of sports programming at Fox Sports, was fired amid an investigation into sexual harassment. In August, the Huffington Post reported that longtime Fox News host Eric Bolling sent unsolicited lewd photos to colleagues at Fox Business. In September Fox parted ways with him.

October brought Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey’s blockbuster story detailing the decades worth of allegations against Harvey Weinstein, and Ronan Farrow’s 10-month investigation that included harrowing accounts from 13 women alleging sexual harassment and assault against Weinstein followed on The New Yorker shortly thereafter. In response, the board of the Weinstein Company fired him, while women continued to come forward to share their own experiences.

If O’Reilly’s downfall had been a catalyst for this moment, Weinstein’s was a reckoning. Weinstein’s horrific behavior was said to be a long-time open secret in Hollywood, and we’d later learn in a stunning story from Kantor, Twohey, and their colleagues Susan Dominus, Jim Rutenberg, and Steve Eder, that Weinstein protected himself from abuse allegations by building relationships with prominent politicians, talent agencies, and media companies to provide him with cover and by threatening the careers of anyone who spoke out against him. Weinstein finally facing consequences for his actions was a signal and a rallying cry for victims of abuse. The hashtag #MeToo went viral on social media, encouraging women to share their experiences. Bad Men could no longer rely on institutions to protect them. The reckoning had come.

Below is a (comprehensive, but not complete) list of men who have been accused of sexual misconduct, and the reporters and news outlets who broke the news and helped brave victims tell their stories: