Scoble: I didn’t have the power required to sexually harass
Tech evangelist Robert Scoble denied sexual harassment allegations leveled at him by with a surprising defense: He never managed or held a position of power over the women who accused him.
“None of the women who came forward were ever in a position where I could make or break their careers,” Scoble said in a blog post Wednesday. “Sexual harassment requires that I have such power.”
The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission outlines sexual harassment as harassment that can include “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature.” It can also simply be remarks regarding a person’s sex.
Harassment isn’t defined by the harasser’s relationship to the victim.
“The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or someone who is not an employee of the employer, such as a client or customer,” according to the EEOC’s website.
Scoble is the latest figure to be accused of sexual harassment. It’s a topic on the public’s mind following more than 50 accusations of sexual harassment leveled against Hollywood power player Harvey Weinstein and the revelation of a $32 million settlement former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly paid to a former network analyst who accused him of sexual harassment.
Scoble’s response comes after several women came forward last week with accounts of him making either racist remarks or unwanted sexual advances. Journalist Quinn Norton wrote in a Medium post that Scoble had groped her saying, “I felt one hand on my breast and his arm reaching around and grabbing my butt.”
In an email to CNET regarding the idea that sexual harassment requires a position of power, Scoble said, “The very short answer is, that in the context of law, that is a requirement (for better or worse). In the paragraph that I address this, I am speaking primarily to the diligence of the reporting, as a reporter should know the difference between misconduct, assault, and harassment.”
He also said none of the women actually used the phrase “sexual harassment.”
There are two types of sexual harassment, according to Judy Lindenberger, president of the Lindenberger Group HR consulting firm. One creates a quid pro quo situation where a person with power wants to exchange sex for a promotion, for example, or expects someone to go along with unwanted sexual advances.
“It’s also against the law to create what’s called an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment, and that has nothing to do with power,” Lindenberger said.
In the more-than-2,400-word blog post, Scoble gives his own side of each incident, chalking up the allegations to everything from consensual flirting to a misinterpretation of events on the part of the accusers. He also accused one of the women of having blackmailed him after having an online affair.
Scoble apologized in the post for not having been better to women in the past, citing marital infidelities and online pornography. But he denied the allegations of harassment.
“Each of the women who have come forward used grains of truth to sell false narrative,” he said.
He also lambasted the media for not verifying all of the facts, noting reports that he told partner Shel Israel the allegations were “mostly true” were inaccurate. Scoble and Israel founded mixed-reality consulting firm Transformation Group earlier this year.
“As I said at the start of this post, there are grains of truth, and I told Shel that the statements were true enough that I would need to address them,” he said.
Scoble resigned on Monday from Transformation.
First published Oct. 25 at 11:04 a.m. PT.
Updated at 11:47 a.m. PT: Adds background.
Updated at 12:54 p.m. PT: Adds EEOC definition of sexual harassment.
Updated at 1:55 p.m. PT: Adds comments from Robert Scoble and Judy Lindenberger.
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