Buzzfeed is reporting that after New York Times star reporter Glenn Thrush was dropped from a Random House book deal with his colleague Maggie Haberman, he kept his advance, while she was ultimately required to repay hers. Thrush was dropped from that deal, and reassigned at the Times, after a Vox story reported that several former colleagues had experienced sexually inappropriate and harassing behavior from him, including the author of the piece.
That Vox article, written by journalist Laura McGann, was released on November 20, 2017, and had an immediate impact: Thrush had already been suspended at work by the time the story was released, and was then reassigned to cover poverty and the social safety net, which was widely seen as a demotion from his high-profile job covering the White House. Random House soon announced that a proposed book he’d been slated to co-author with Haberman, an inside look at the Trump administration, would move forward without him attached.
The Washington Post reported at the time that he’d keep his advance since Random House dropped him. Haberman, meanwhile, per Buzzfeed, was ultimately not so lucky:
According to two sources familiar with the situation, after a period of limbo and attempts to salvage the project, Haberman decided not to do the book after losing her writing partner—and then had to give her share of the advance back to the publisher.
Returning an advance isn’t unheard of, but it’s fairly rare. Haberman reportedly declined to comment to Buzzfeed. She disclosed that she was no longer working on the book in July of this year during a written Q&A, but didn’t specify precisely when the project stopped moving forward.
As we reported last year, Thrush hired an attorney before the Vox story was published, Thomas Clare, whose firm is known for boasting about stopping negative stories about their famous clients, and who’d previously been involved in litigation against the Times itself. (Full disclosure: Clare sent a legal letter to me, my editors and my parent company earlier this year, objecting to my ongoing reporting on a different story.)
Clare argued that McGann wasn’t able to report objectively on Thrush, writing, “I’d urge you to ask the reporter about her own relationships in the workplace while at Politico,” wrote Clare. “[A]nd to consider what those relationships have in the motivation for (or telling of) the current article.” McGann told Jezebel she took that line to be a veiled reference to her sex life, and to false rumors that she’d had sex in the newsroom. She also told us that similarly false and potentially damaging stories about her supposedly scandalous sex life were also spread through the media grapevine during her reporting process, a whisper campaign that seemed designed to discredit her and her work.
When the story was published, Thrush issued a statement apologizing “to any woman who felt uncomfortable in my presence, and for any situation where I behaved inappropriately” and said he’d sought treatment for alcoholism. He denied having harassed McGann.
After a period of reassignment, during which time he didn’t break any stories of note, we observed in March that Thrush appeared to be slowly migrating back to his old job. In July of this year, the Times made it official, announcing he’d be producing “investigative pieces on the candidates and the campaign.” While the press release noted Thrush had previously covered the White House, it didn’t mention why he stopped.
Thrush didn’t immediately return a request for comment from Jezebel, but maybe he will, one of these days.