The deputy director of photography at National Geographic was let go the end of last year after a human resources investigation into his history of predatory sexual behavior.
Vox is reporting that Patrick Witty was let go suddenly after the investigation prompted by his name being part of a "Shitty Media Men" spreadsheet that was distributed last year. His departure was not explained at the time.
Declan Moore, chief executive officer of National Geographic Partners, acknowledged Witty and the controversy in an internal memo obtained by the NPPA.
"I want you to know that our Human Resources team conducted a very thorough investigation as soon as issues were raised by women inside and outside of NGP regarding his behavior," read Moore's memo emailed to employees at National Geographic Partners. He also wrote that the executive team was committed to a safe work environment, especially concerning sexual harassment.
Before National Geographic, Witty worked at The New York Times, Time magazine and Wired. The Vox article outlined a history where Witty was known to hit on young women in the profession, including at conferences or workshops.
In one situation at a social gathering that NPPA has confirmed, Witty told a woman she would never work for Time after she rebuffed him. The story also said Witty no longer is invited to a professional workshop because of complaints. The Vox story said they confirmed these stories in the course of 20 interviews.
"I'm impressed with the sheer number of women willing to come forward for this story," said NPPA Past President Melissa Lyttle. "But it also, sadly, shows how pervasive harassment and bullying are in this industry. I don't think I know a female photojournalist that can say she hasn't been discriminated against, talked down to, been passed over on assignments and opportunities, threatened, or make to feel uncomfortable because of her gender."
Witty is another in a line of several from the "Shitty Men in Media" list who have recently lost their jobs. Awareness and action to stop sexual harassment have prompted the #metoo movement, and many men in high-profile positions have lost their jobs.
Last year, photojournalist Bill Frakes lost his teaching appointment at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln for violating Title IX harassment policies, and other photographers and educators have been accused of harassment and abuse of the power dynamic that many of these men wield. Fashion photographers Terry Richardson, Mario Testino and Bruce Weber have also been accused of sexual harassment.
"It's important to keep sharing these stories about such egregious abuses of power," Lyttle said. "It's not the victims who should feel any shame here; it's those men - Richardson, Frakes, Testino, Weber, Witty - and the people in their circles who covered up for them and allowed this to happen for decades who should be ashamed."
On January 32, 2018, Witty issued this statement through his attorney Stephen B. Pershing. Witty is not talking on the record beyond this statement:
“I’m deeply sorry that some of my past behavior has been hurtful to women.
“I was raised by six powerful women—five older sisters and my mother, now 86—who taught me to respect women and to fight for women. I’ve advocated and championed women’s advancement as photographers and editors my entire career.
“With firm conviction, I deny that I’ve ever engaged in any behavior that amounts to sexual aggression. I also strongly deny ever insinuating that I would give someone professional help—or withhold it—on condition of sexual favors or romantic interest. I’ve never been accused of wrongdoing of any kind in the workplace, so I was shocked and dismayed when I first learned of the accusations against me.
“But I’ve also come to realize that my perception of a situation and someone else’s may not always align. In many otherwise innocent interactions, I may have underestimated the power of my position. What I’m hearing makes me think about the impact of my behavior on others in a whole new way, as it should. I am saddened to think that I in any way have contributed to or reinforced the imbalance of power between men and women in my industry.
“We as a society are in the midst of a stark and imperative reckoning—long overdue—about the reprehensible ways men have behaved toward women all across our culture, as well as in particular industries like photojournalism, to which I have devoted my heart and soul for the past 25 years. This new dialogue is enlightening to me, as a man undergoing a much-needed awakening, and as a father who wants to do better by his own son in the hope that he'll know and help to shape, a culture of respect and equality for all. I wholeheartedly embrace and support this movement."