BOSTON — Tom Ashbrook, the host of one of National Public Radio's most successful programs, On Point, has been suspended while the network investigates sexual misconduct allegations made against him.
The allegations include that he engaged in "creepy" sex talks and gave unwanted hugs, neck and back rubs to 11 mostly young women and men who worked on the show.
WBUR-FM, the Boston public radio station that produces On Point, on Monday described a pattern of alleged abuse set out in a multi-page document filed by the accusers outlining their complaints against Ashbrook. The allegations were confirmed in multiple interviews by WBUR.
"Tirades directed at young women in the studio. Name calling and belittling critiques of show ideas during meetings. 'Creepy' sex talk, hugs and back or neck rubs after a dressing down," reported WBUR.
Ashbrook, 61, was put on leave last week.
WBUR said some former staffers say they were proud to work for On Point and called Ashbrook a terrific host. But an anonymous former producer who signed the complaint says she came forward out of concern for current and future On Point staff.
“I worry that Tom’s behavior discourages young women from continuing in journalism,” the station quoted her saying. "Working at On Point as a young woman in journalism sets up a very bizarre understanding of expectations...It has taken several years to adjust my understanding of what is normal behavior and what is not in the workplace."
In a text to the station, Ashbrook described himself as “stunned that a few former colleagues have apparently come forward with allegations that have not been shared with me. I have no idea what is being alleged, nor by whom.”
But WBUR quoted former and current producers who said that Ashbrook's staff occasionally pushed back against Ashbrook's behavior, telling him to stop berating colleagues. Five current or former producers asserted they met with station managers multiple times, dating back at least five years, to raise concerns about Ashbrook.
"Some producers said managers promised to take action, but the former employees say there was no evidence of change," WBUR reported. "Four producers say they were either told or led to believe that their jobs could be at risk if they pursued a complaint."
In his texted statement, Ashbrook wrote that he is sure that "once the facts come out that people will see me for who I am — flawed but caring and decent in all my dealings with others."
Ashbrook, a former Boston Globe foreign editor, reporter, author and internet entrepreneur, has hosted On Point for 16 years. The two-hour call-in radio show about the news and issues of the day is produced at WBUR-FM, the public-radio station at Boston University.
Both the show and Ashbrook have been widely acclaimed; the show is carried by more than 290 NPR stations.
Ashbrook jumped to public radio after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks when he was recruited by NPR and WBUR to help with special coverage. He's the author of The Leap: A Memoir of Love and Madness in the Internet Gold Rush.
List of accused: Hollywood power players facing sexual misconduct allegations
The allegations against Ashbrook are the latest against public-radio personalities. Garrison Keillor, creator of A Prairie Home Companion, was evicted from his longtime radio home at Minnesota Public Radio after reported "inappropriate behavior" by the 75-year-old host.
New York Public Radio announced last week that hosts Leonard Lopate and Jonathan Schwartz of WYNC were placed on immediate leave during an investigation into accusations of "inappropriate conduct," according to a WYNC statement.