Guardian bosses under fire over sexual harassment claims against top writer

British journalist and critic Nick Cohen, pictured at the Edinburgh International Book Festival in 2007 (Corbis via Getty Images)
British journalist and critic Nick Cohen, pictured at the Edinburgh International Book Festival in 2007 (Corbis via Getty Images)

The publisher of The Guardian has come under fire over claims it did not do enough to investigate complaints of sexual harassment against a star columnist.

Guardian Media Group is facing questions over its response to serious complaints made against Nick Cohen over a 17-year period.

He left sister paper The Observer last November on “health grounds”.

According to the New York Times, former Guardian journalist Lucy Siegle said she had made a complaint to senior management in 2018 about Mr Cohen “groping her in the newsroom” in around 2001.

The New York Times said Mr Cohen grabbed her bottom and that five other women described similar encounters in pubs between 2008 and 2015. Another claimed Mr Cohen had repeatedly offered to send her explicit photographs in 2018, and raised the matter with HR the following year.

Mr Cohen’s reputation was “widely known” to the extent that some female colleagues used a different entrance to a pub near the office “to avoid being groped by him”, the New York Times alleged.

A spokesman for Guardian News & Media said: “We take all allegations of workplace harassment extremely seriously and aim to support victims in all circumstances. We have processes which anyone can use to raise complaints so that they can be fully investigated.

“None of the incidents the New York Times reports were raised with Guardian senior management until one serious allegation was raised confidentially with a member of senior management in 2018. However, the victim asked to remain anonymous and did not wish to pursue the complaint.

“When further details of this and another complaint were later made public on social media in 2021 and 2022, we instigated our own HR investigations, although neither complainant wished to take part. Prior to the conclusion of the HR process, Nick Cohen left the Observer in November 2022 on grounds of ill-health.”

Mr Cohen did not respond to requests for comment from the Evening Standard.

He told the Daily Telegraph: “I took sick leave from The Observer in the summer of 2022. I resigned on health grounds later in the year… I am afraid to say that in the early 2000s I was an alcoholic. After three years of trying, I went clean in 2016. Today, I look back with shame and regret at the hurt I caused.”

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Andrew Naughtie

News reporter and author at @websalespromo