The 30-Year Itch (Update)

Was it anger seething for the past 30 years, or was it some desire to have a story to tell so that they wouldn’t be left out of the tears of #MeToo victimhood? After all, no woman wants to gut the narrative that they’re a victim of toxic masculinity while their contemporaries are getting “likes” galore on Instragram. And it’s hard to hold on to one’s pain for 30 years, particularly when it wasn’t considered painful in the least at the time.

But when you have a luminary to accuse, the temptation is hard to pass up, as journalist and Wayne State professor Jack Lessenberry learned.

Lessenberry is a longtime Detroit journalist who served as the head of journalism faculty at WSU, senior political analyst for Michigan Public Radio, ombudsman for the Toledo Blade and host of public affairs program for Toledo’s WGTE-TV, according to the Crain’s article.

Lessenberry has previously worked as a foreign correspondent and executive national editor for The Detroit News. He has had bylines in the New York Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe and other publications.

He was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Society of Professional Journalists Detroit chapter last year.

So he’s not Tom Wolfe, but he’s still kind of a big deal. That means he’s got a target on him.

The Deadline Detroit article detailed allegations of misconduct and inappropriate behavior dating back nearly 30 years.

Lessenberry told the Free Press on Friday that he welcomes the independent investigation.

He also said most of the claims in the Deadline Detroit story, including one that he put a hand on a student’s thigh, were false.

“Nobody has alleged that I slept with them, or propositioned them, or done anything of the kind,” he said.

Is he accused of raping children? Maybe extorting sex for grades? For stories? What could this man have done that’s so horrifying and exhausting that 30 years later, it demands sunlight?

Several former colleagues and students of Lessenberry’s are cited in Deadline Detroit, accusing him of inappropriate remarks and one accusation of inappropriate physical contact between 1990 and 2009.

It includes an accusation that Lessenberry created a “sexually hostile work environment” while he was an editor at the Commercial Appeal in Memphis, Tenn., in 1991.

On my god, what a fiend! I can’t begin to imagine the potential of womanhood cut down in its prime for having heard his inappropriate remarks, like a knife being thrust through their heart in the most violent and vicious possible way. Metaphorically, of course. For all we know, he might have uttered the “third floor, ladies lingerie” joke. How could these colleagues and students ever thrive after such trauma?

Galante told the Free Press that Wayne State, where Lessenberry has worked for 25 years, received one documented complaint against him earlier this year. It was about something that happened in 2005, she said. Officials determined there was no basis for finding that his behavior violated the university’s policies about sexual assault or harassment.

But that was when there was only one accusation. When they pile up, they must surely be taken seriously. After all, it’s impossible that multiple accusations over the decades could be false or insufferably trivial, only rearing their ugly head because of presentist revision making everything problematic.

Galante said university President M. Roy Wilson decided to hire an experienced, outside investigator to look into the allegations that were outlined in the article. . . ..

“I think the bottom line is we feel we want a safe and welcoming environment for everyone,” she said. “It’s distressing and we deeply regret that any of our students feel they were subjected to unwelcome sexual misconduct.”

Good on Wayne State for expressing regret for things that have yet to be proven. Waiting only emboldens males to commit atrocities decades before, and shows students how little they care about inappropriate remarks they never heard.

“We decided to suspend Jack (Lessenberry) for the time being while we consider the details outlined in the Deadline report,” Metro Times editor in chief Lee DeVito said in an email to Crain’s.

DeVito went on to state that Lessenberry doesn’t work in the office but files one column per week remotely and that no one in the Metro Times office has raised any issues against him.

Given the near-certainty that Lessenberry’s decades-earlier conduct would create a hostile work environment in a newsroom where he doesn’t appear, this was a prudent move in anticipation of an investigation. It’s far too risky to allow him to remotely file a weekly column that could taint the newspaper.

In light of the Wayne State investigation, Lessenberry has “voluntarily stepped away” as well, and there’s almost no chance he did so with the dean’s hands pushing his back toward the door. After all, what journalism student should be forced to tolerate a teacher with decades of lauded experience when they know, THEY KNOW, he’s been accused of inappropriate remarks 30 years earlier?

Surely there is someone far more safe to teach journalism then this disgusting lech. Perhaps someone with a gender studies Ph.D., who might never have run down a news story but surely will never utter an inappropriate remark. Well, at least not one that would cut a student down in her budding womanhood.

Update: A victim speaks out. I shan’t prejudice you on the merits of her grievance.

H/T Skink

8 thoughts on “The 30-Year Itch (Update)

  1. Chris Van Wagner

    A boozer stops when he hits “rock bottom,” the saying goes. Sometimes that rock bottom includes a funeral dirge in the background. But have we no low, no bottom, to the inanity that universities now peddle to avoid Nasser-ization by the media? We have come to the point of regretting decades-old feelings. That’s what Wayne State is regretting today. Heaven forbid anyone anywhere on campus or even on their social media platform should have a bad day. But if they do, let’s call the #metoo gendarmerie. Feelings: bad. Ineffectual steps to protect: good. Balderdash. So glad to have matriculated when feelings were feelings, not pronouncements

  2. Dan

    I live in the Detroit Metro area, and I often listen to Jack Lessenberry’s commentary on Michigan Radio. I was curious about the substance (if any) underlying these allegations at this point.

    So far, I’ve come across this article that seems to have been written by one of Lessenberry’s female accusers, a journalism student at Wayne State and then a local Detroit-area reporter: [Ed. Note: Link deleted per rules.]

    Besides some generalized complaints about Lessenberry not exactly thinking she was the brightest journo in the box, what is the only concrete example she gives of per se inappropriate behavior? When they first met, Lessenberry “had put his hand on my shoulder or upper arm, and I had asked him not to.”

    Just as you say, it looks like one of the MeToo’s MOs is to pile up lots of relatively minor or trivial accusations and, like Rumpelstiltskin, spin them from banalities into Matters of Utmost Importance.

    1. SHG Post author

      You probably started writing this before I added the update, then posted after, which is why you didn’t know the link was already included in my update to the post. Or maybe not.

    2. B. McLeod

      Quite credible, of course. I can’t count the number of times I have noted people introducing themselves with, “Hi, I’m so-and-so. Please don’t put your hand on my shoulder or upper arm.”

      1. Christopher Van Wagner

        Ah, but no one asks first. Try it. People look at you strangely when you do. And does asking and getting a “sure, whatever” solve the problem? Time for some intensive behavioral modification. Perhaps they could have him read aloud from the worst journalistic efforts of all time when he is having urges to interact in normal human ways.

  3. Pedantic Grammar Police

    I always thought it was normal for people to touch my arm or shoulder while we’re talking. I think they may teach that in management school. Or used to. I don’t do it, but not because I think it’s bad, it’s just not my style. Us Grammar Police are not very touchy-feely.

    It never occurred to me that I could be offended by this behavior. I’ve been missing so many opportunities to lose friends and alienate people! Or punish people who thought I sucked 30 years ago.

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