Mother Jones’ Washington bureau chief David Corn was investigated for inappropriate workplace behavior in 2014, and will now be investigated further after new emails about his behavior were released to POLITICO.
Mother Jones editor-in-chief, Clara Jeffery, and CEO, Monika Bauerlein, confirmed that Corn was previously investigated and warned about inappropriate touching of female staffers and insensitive descriptions of sexual violence. Jeffery and Bauerlein said they are investigating further after POLITICO received emails written by former staffers in 2014 and 2015 that alleged inappropriate behavior by Corn.
One of the emails was written in 2015 by a former staffer recounting things other women in the office had told her about Corn. The staffer said Corn “made rape jokes,” ““regularly gave [several women] unwelcome shoulder rubs and engaged in uninvited touching of their legs, arms, backs, and waists,” and “made inappropriate comments about women’s sexuality and anatomy.”
The other email, also written by a former female staffer, says Corn “came up behind me and put his hands and arms around my body in a way that felt sexual and domineering.”
Jeffery and Bauerlein said that while they had looked into Corn’s behavior in 2014, they had never seen the newly released emails.
Corn said in a statement that his behavior was never “sexual” and blamed his touching on being an “exuberant” person. He also denied ever making rape jokes or joking about a “woman’s anatomy.”
“I am an exuberant person and have been known to pat male and female colleagues on the shoulder or slap them on the back, but always in a collegial or celebratory way,” he said. “I have never touched any work colleague in a sexual manner. Once concerns were raised about this type of contact, I have been mindful to avoid it to prevent any misperception. If anyone ever perceived any of this as ‘sexual’ or ‘domineering,’ I am sorry—that was never my intent.”
Bauerlein and Jeffrey said the concerns about Corn’s behavior “deserved to be addressed” but said his behavior was not “misconduct” and was not “anywhere near the kinds of behaviors we have been reading about taking place elsewhere in the past few weeks.”
“What we heard about in the past were concerns about nonsexual touching (patting on the shoulder, slapping on the back, poking in the arm),” Bauerlein and Jeffery said. “At no time did anyone claim that any kind of sexual touching occurred. In fact, the people who raised concerns about touching told us that they did not consider it sexual, but simply didn’t want any physical contact at all.”