LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A Rolling Stone journalist and author abruptly cancelled his remarks at a humanities festival on Saturday after backlash over a memoir he published in 2000, which critics say gleefully recounts his sexual harassment of female employees.
Matt Taibbi, author of a new book about the death of a 43-year-old black man at the hands of the New York City Police Department, was unable to attend the Chicago Humanities Festival event due to “scheduling demands,” a spokesman for the organisation said.
Taibbi, who took part in a separate festival event in nearby Evanston on Saturday, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The 47-year-old Taibbi has come under fire in recent days after an NPR journalist asked him during an interview about the memoir, “The Exile: Sex, Drugs and Libel in the New Russia,” which chronicles his time as the editor of an English language newspaper in Russia.
The book, co-written by Taibbi and another editor at the paper, Mark Ames, contains passages seemingly detailing the two men’s mistreatment, sexual harassment and even assaults on their female staff and other young women.
Taibbi earlier this week posted a lengthy apology on Facebook, saying that “The Exile” was fictional and intended as a “giant satire” of Americans living in Russia.
“I regret many editorial decisions that I made back then, and putting my name as a co-author on a book that used cruel and misogynistic language to describe many people and women in particular,” Taibbi said in the statement. “I hope readers can forgive my poor judgement at that time.”
The controversy comes as a string of accusations against movie producer Harvey Weinstein that has galvanized outrage over abuse of women that has been covered up or ignored. Weinstein has denied engaging in non-consensual sex with anyone.
Rolling Stone said in a statement released to a CNN reporter that it was standing by Taibbi, who had always been “utterly professional” in his conduct at the magazine.
Ames also said in a posting on his website that the book was satirical.
“I never raped, harassed, assaulted anyone, and it sickens me that I’m dragged into having to make this sort of denial,” Ames wrote.
Critics, however, point out that the book contains a note making clear that it is nonfiction.
“Some of us woke up to the Exile excerpts this morning. We still feel sick,” journalist Aimee Levitt wrote in the Chicago Reader newspaper.
Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Frank McGurty and Mary Milliken