Stephen Henderson on misconduct allegations: 'I am exploring legal action'

Posted at 3:01 PM, Dec 15, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-18 10:44:25-05

The managing director of opinion and commentary for the Detroit Free Press, Stephen Henderson, has been terminated for alleged misconduct against female employees.

The move comes after allegations by a local pastor that accused Henderson of sexual misconduct.

Gannett, owner of the Detroit Free Press, launched an investigation following the accusations and reportedly found credible evidence of misconduct.

Gannett released the following statement: 

“Effective today, Stephen Henderson will no longer be employed by the Detroit Free Press. The decision was made after an internal investigation was conducted which uncovered credible allegations that Mr. Henderson’s behavior has been inconsistent with company values and standards.”

Stephen Henderson released the following statement on WDET's website, where he hosts the program Detroit Today:

On Friday, I was terminated from my role as columnist and head of the editorial page at The Detroit Free Press. As a journalist and as the ongoing host of WDET’s Detroit Today, my most important asset is the trust that listeners, viewers, and readers have in me to tell the truth.

So I want to start by telling you what happened.

The newspaper’s action on Friday was set in motion two weeks ago when a local minister claimed in a press conference that complaints about sexual harassment had been made against several Detroit media personalities, including me at the Free Press.

There were no such claims.

But the allegation prompted the newspaper to conduct its own review of my work and interactions with colleagues, a review I encouraged and supported.

I spoke candidly and openly about every potentially relevant interaction I could recall with a colleague.

The newspaper’s review of my ten years in management at the Free Press found instances with two female employees in which my interactions, in social situations outside of work several years ago, were deemed inappropriate. One situation involved sexually themed conversations with an employee; I had encouraged that employee to disclose this interaction. In the other situation, a co-worker who was a manager in another department reported two rejected advances that she said made her uncomfortable.

Neither of the co-workers involved had come forward or filed a complaint before the outside allegations were made against me. There are no other allegations. I have maintained professional friendships and good working relationships with both of these colleagues. The Free Press told me that neither of the two women want to take any action.

The newspaper and its corporate owner, Gannett, still decided to end my employment, saying my conduct violated the company’s standards. I disagree with that decision and outcome, and I am exploring legal action.

But I want to make a few things clear before we move forward. I want to apologize to the women involved. It was bad judgment, on my part, to have engaged in either situation. As a senior leader at the Free Press, I should have acted more responsibly. I also want to apologize to Free Press readers, to our listeners here at WDET, and to viewers of Detroit Public Television.

On this show, we have spent a lot of time in recent weeks talking and thinking about this critical moment where our country is more openly confronting sexual harassment and gender dynamics in the workplace and holding accountable men who have done harm. I will not shy from that conversation in any way and, as always, I will welcome your voice and thoughts in the conversation.