Dylan Howard, the chief content officer of American Media Inc., was the subject of an internal investigation into sexual misconduct during his brief stint in charge of the celebrity site Celebuzz, multiple sources have told HuffPost ― the second investigation into Howard’s behavior to be made public this week.
Howard joined Celebuzz as editor-in-chief in early 2012 following his first stint at AMI, where he had been investigated for misconduct just months before, as The Associated Press reported this week and HuffPost independently confirmed.
Early on at the job, Howard made his new colleagues uncomfortable. They knew of his personal reputation, and his behavior once there did nothing to disabuse them of their preconceptions.
“We knew and it was very well known that he had some type of inappropriate behavior at work with his female employees,” said a former Celebuzz editor who worked directly with Howard. “You knew it was going to go downhill.” (HuffPost spoke with a number of former employees, all of whom wished to remain anonymous because they still work in the industry.)
A second former Celebuzz employee said in an email that she recalled Howard making “inappropriate remarks” about being attracted to a co-worker during his time there. “His way of relating and cutting lose with his co-workers seemed to be by telling crass and shocking stories that were offensive at times,” the former employee said.
He called me into his office, shut the door and berated me because a woman he slept with who he found "fucking disgusting" had her period all over the bed, yelled at me and said, "What the fuck is wrong with women like you? Get out." A former Celebuzz producer
A third employee said that Howard made her “feel like my job was threatened” because she was pregnant. “It was a real hostile work environment,” she said.
A separate former Celebuzz producer described Howard as “creating a toxic environment” at the company. “Right off the bat, he made every woman in the office feel incredibly uncomfortable,” the producer said.
At one point, she said, “He called me into his office, shut the door and berated me because a woman he slept with who he found ‘fucking disgusting’ had her period all over the bed, yelled at me and said, ‘What the fuck is wrong with women like you? Get out.’” (Three people confirmed to HuffPost that the employee told them the story at the time.)
In a statement provided to HuffPost, Howard denied that he ever made such a statement, calling it “incredibly offensive” and based on the memories of a “disgruntled former employee.”
“Let me be crystal clear and very direct: The statement HuffPo attributed to me never came out my mouth. It is incredibly offensive, and deeply saddening that a media organization would publish such abhorrent words — as fact — based on the threadbare sourcing of a disgruntled former employee,” he said.
“My 2012 tenure at BuzzMedia was thoroughly reviewed, as the AP reported Friday, and the undisputable fact is that this claim was not made until HuffPo chose to publish it in 2017,” he added.
HuffPost followed up with the source about Howard’s response. ”It happened, standing by the story,” she wrote.
The producer ultimately left the company of her own accord in late 2012, she said.
“I just want nothing to do with this place,” she said. While she never filed an official complaint, she said she “certainly let them know during my exit interview that he was the reason I was leaving because I could not stand to be a part of that.”
In early 2013, employees around the newsroom became aware that Howard had come under internal investigation over harassment allegations, a source close to the situation said. The AP reported Friday that an internal investigator wrote a letter in April 2013 saying Howard violated the company’s sexual harassment policy, citing eight separate allegations, which included throwing a “sexual aid” at an employee, the AP said.
“There is nothing here that has any truth to it,” Howard told the AP. AMI did not immediately respond to a request for comment from HuffPost.
One of the Celebuzz employees confirmed to HuffPost she was contacted in early 2013 by the company “very specifically to ask me about sexual stuff.” “I could basically confirm that he was inappropriate and would make comments that were completely unprofessional,” she said.
“And then, he was gone,” the employee added.
After just a little over a year at Celebuzz, Howard left the site and returned to AMI. He has since risen up the masthead and now controls a trove of tabloid brands, including the National Enquirer and Radar Online, as part of his new role as chief content officer. It’s not clear if Howard left Celebuzz as a result of the investigation.
Earlier this week, the AP reported that former employees at AMI felt Howard often belittled and degraded female employees at the office. That AP story contained a number of allegations. Former reporter Liz Crokin said Howard once asked her if she was “going to be walking the streets tonight” when she was wearing heels. He told another former employee he wanted to create a Facebook page for her vagina. He forced women to watch pornography. His nickname for himself was “Dildo.”
Howard has called the claims about his behavior “baseless,” and AMI has said that Howard “has the full support of AMI and its executives.” A lawyer for AMI, Cam Stracher, said the investigation into Howard’s alleged misconduct found nothing seriously impermissible.
The Australian journalist first became embroiled in controversy last month, when Ronan Farrow reported in The New Yorker that Howard had obtained negative information on actress Rose McGowan on behalf of Harvey Weinstein ― part of the film mogul’s complex campaign to dig up dirt on his vast number of potential accusers. McGowan has since accused Weinstein of rape.
This article has been updated with a response from Dylan Howard and a follow-up reply from the source.
BEFORE YOU GO
Garai said that she felt “violated” by Weinstein, who was fired from his namesake company on Oct. 8 in the wake of numerous sexual harassment allegations.
"I said no to him professionally many times over the years," she wrote, "some of which ended up with him screaming at me calling me a cunt and making threats, some of which made him laughingly tell people, 'Oh, Kate lives to say no to me.'"
“Before I knew it, he started trying to pull my clothes off and pin me down and I just kept saying ‘no, no, no.' But he was really forceful," she said. "I remember him pulling at my trousers and stuff and looming over me and I just sort of – I am a big, strong girl and I bolted ... ran for the bathroom and locked the door. I was in there for a while I think, he went very quiet. After a while I remember opening the door and seeing him just there facing the door masturbating, so I quickly closed the door again and locked it. Then when I heard room service come to the door I just ran."
“He started to tell me that he found me very attractive and wanted to have relations with me. I told him I was very in love with my companion. He replied that didn’t bother him at all and offered to have me be his mistress a few days a year. That way we could continue to work together. Basically, it was, ‘If you want to continue in America, you have to go through me,’" Darel said. She says she left quickly and told Weinstein: “I’m sorry, I have to leave.”
She also said she had three dinners with Weinstein during which he allegedly boasted about the actresses he'd slept with and joked that a pilot "was on standby because he could never get me to sleep with him."
Finally, the producer would not allow the actress to board her flight to New York, insisting she ride in his private plane. Weinstein allegedly ordered airport personnel to remove Sagemiller's bags from her flight from Toronto and deliver her to the runway where his plane was awaiting takeoff.
"If my manager called me tomorrow and said, 'Actually, I remember there was this movie you were up for, and now that I’m thinking back on it, maybe [rebuffing Weinstein is] why you didn’t get it,' I wouldn’t be surprised at all," the actress said.
“That night... I went out to a premiere after party that Harvey Weinstein was also at. He motioned for me to come over to him, and then grabbed me to sit me on his lap," she said. "I was so surprised and shocked I couldn’t stop laughing because it was so awkward. But then I could feel that he had an erection. I got quiet, but got off his lap quickly. He then asked me to come outside with him and other things I don’t want to share, but it was implied that if I did not comply with doing what he asked me to do that I would not get the role that I had already been informally offered. I laughed in his face as I was in shock and so uncomfortable. I left the party right after that.”
Subkoff said the offer for the role was rescinded and she felt that her reputation was "ruined by false gossip."
"I was called ‘too difficult to work with. It became impossible for me to get work as an actress after this."
She continued: “I was genuinely shocked. I remember thinking, it’s got to be a joke. I said something like, ‘Oh, come on, mate?!?? It’d be like kissing my dad!!’” Headey suggested her rebuff might have cost her roles in other projects helmed by Weinstein, because she was never cast again.
“He told me I looked stressed. He said that maybe he thought I could use a massage. Maybe I could give him a massage,” she said. When she refused, she said, Weinstein told her it would be a “bad decision” and would hurt her career if she left. But, Holly said, she "pushed him and ran.”
Weinstein allegedly told the actress not to tell anyone that she had been alone with him. "He tried to take my hand and put it in his lap which is when I managed to leave the room," she wrote.
The producer allegedly told her: "I waited for the masseuse, but she's late. We can have fun without her. Let's relax." When Mtsitouridze hesitated, she said, Weinstein told her, "You will love it. I'm a guru in this matter. You never met a man like me." Mtsitouridze said she was frozen but took her opportunity to leave when a waiter came into the room with an ice bucket for Champagne.
Mtsitouridze said she ran into Weinstein at the Cannes Film Festival a decade later and he told her quietly: "Don't even think about saying anything. Forget all about it. Be a smart girl."
"He told me that he has a lot of 'special friends' and they give each other massages," Coughlan said. "It was a full-court press. He wanted me to be one of his 'special friends' and go into the bedroom. I told him that I had a serious boyfriend and reminded him that he was married and that we should keep this professional. I was so blindsided. Not one ounce of me anticipated it. It was the weirdest meeting I've ever had in my life." Weinstein allegedly made the offer several other times, to which Coughlan always refused.
She also accused the Hollywood mogul of abruptly ending a dinner with her after she declined his invitation to come up to his hotel room.
"I was stunned," she said. "I told him I preferred to eat in the restaurant. He told me not to be so naïve. If I wanted to be an actress, then I had to be willing to do this sort of thing. He said he had dated Famous Actress X and Y and look where that had gotten them."
She added, "I was silent for a while before I mustered up the courage to politely decline his offer."
"I personally experienced him pulling his you-know-what out of his pants in order to shock me. My basic response was, ‘You know, Harvey, I really don’t think you should be pulling that thing out. It’s not very pretty.’” The actress said she left the room and refused to meet with the producer again.
Haleyi described more than one incident of sexual harassment. She claimed Weinstein once attempted to persuade her to give him a massage and also once forced himself into her apartment after she declined an invitation to join him in Paris. During one instance, Haleyi said she and Weinstein were watching TV when he began making sexual advances toward her.
“I said, ‘I am on my period. There is no way this is going to happen. Please stop.’ He wouldn’t take no for an answer,” Haleyi said, adding that the producer then held her on her bed and assaulted her.
She wrote: "I, too, was asked to meet him in a hotel bar. I, too, met a young, female assistant there who said the meeting had been moved upstairs to his suite because he was a very busy man. I, too, felt my guard go up but was calmed by the presence of another woman my age beside me. I, too, felt terror in the pit of my stomach when that young woman left the room and I was suddenly alone with him. I, too, was asked if I wanted a massage, champagne, strawberries. I, too, sat in that chair paralyzed by mounting fear when he suggested we shower together."