Media How The Times Chose to Frame the Sutherland Harassment Story
posted by July 16 at 11:30 AMon
So after sitting on information that Republican state lands commissioner Douglas Sutherland had repeatedly sexually harassed a young Department of Natural Resources employee—an allegation corroborated in official state documents by several eyewitnesses—for FOUR MONTHS, the Seattle Times finally ran with the story today, after David Goldstein at Horse’s Ass wrote about it yesterday. Their take? Well, at least he apologized.
Washington public-lands commissioner apologized after complaint by employee
Washington’s public-lands commissioner, Doug Sutherland, inappropriately touched and made remarks to a young female employee who soon quit the Department of Natural Resources despite his formal apology, according to public documents on the incident from his own department.
During a workplace meeting in 2005, Sutherland touched the woman’s back and waist and made suggestive comments that made her uncomfortable, according to written accounts from the woman and a witness.
After an internal investigation, Sutherland met with the woman at her request and apologized to her. He agreed that he had violated departmental policy on appropriate behavior, according to the documents.
Sutherland has maintained that his contact with the woman was simply meant to be a friendly gesture.
So, basically just a he-said, she-said, right? Except that: 1) That’s not what the eyewitness accounts in the documents say, and 2) The Times story has exactly two sources (not counting a two-word quote from Sutherland’s opponent Peter Goldmark): Sutherland… and Sutherland’s campaign manager. Gee, I can’t imagine why they would maintain that repeatedly rubbing a young female employee’s back and waist was just a “friendly gesture.”
For the record, here’s how Sutherland’s own aide recalled the incident at the time (notes appear to be from an oral interview):
Shook Jesse’s hand, then got to [the woman], instead of shaking hand he turned her slightly and ran his hand all over back.
I was uncomfortable, & made joke: “And she’s quite strong too.”
Doug turned her to front: “And she has some other great parts also.”
[The woman] was very embarrassed. Taken aback.
That account matches closely with the woman’s own notes, which recall Sutherland turning her around and running his hand over her back and waist, saying something about “just looking,” then adding something like “could’ve felt the other side.”
At least the Times (sort of) covered the story. The P-I chose to ignore it entirely—a decision political assignment editor Chris Grygiel told me he made because the case didn’t involve disciplinary action or a payout of state money. During a podcast I participated in at Drinking Liberally last night, P-I columnist Joel Connelly noted that the P-I has just one reporter in Olympia, and there’s a lot going on down there. Guess how many reporters Horse’s Ass has in Olympia?