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L.A. Times Beijing Bureau Chief Jonathan Kaiman resigns after investigation into alleged sexual misconduct

The Beijing Bureau Chief of the Los Angeles Times has resigned after the paper completed an investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct by him.

The L.A. Times suspended Jonathan Kaiman and launched its investigation in May, after former Wall Street Journal editor Felicia Sonmez accused Kaiman of “problematic behaviour.”

The newspaper’s spokesperson Hillary Manning told HKFP that the company had completed its investigation and Kaiman has resigned.

jon kaiman

She did not respond to a question about the investigation results. “We are not able to provide additional details on this personnel matter,” Manning said.

Sonmez said the incident occurred in September last year, after they left a party together while both were intoxicated. At the time, Kaiman was the president of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China (FCCC) and Sonmez was a board member.

“Even though parts of the evening were consensual, while on the way, Jon escalated things in a way that crossed the line,” she wrote. She alleged that he repeatedly groped her without consent and they later had unprotected intercourse in his apartment.

She said her memory was hazy and she was “devastated by the fact that I was not more sober so that I could say with absolute certainty whether what happened that night was rape.”

Sonmez was the second woman to make sexual misconduct allegations against Kaiman. She came forward with her account after Laura Tucker, a former roommate of Kaiman’s, posted an account in January of a 2013 incident, in which she said Kaiman had pressured her into sex. Kaiman resigned as the FCCC’s president and apologised after Tucker told her story.

Sonmez said she was grateful to the L.A. Times for taking her allegation seriously and investigating Kaiman’s behaviour.

“The voices of women are a crucial part of the equation when it comes to combatting sexual misconduct. But the response of institutions is another essential part,” she wrote in a statement on Tuesday.

But she said several questions remain in its handling of the situation, including the fact that the newspaper did not release the results of the investigation and did not address questions about why it did not further investigate after Tucker published her allegations in January.

Tucker said she was relieved at the outcome.

“I again applaud Felicia Sonmez for coming forward and hope the issues she raises will be addressed.”

‘Scarlet letter’

Kaiman on Wednesday denied Sonmez’s allegations, telling HKFP that his experience of the night “differs fundamentally from her account.”

“I am genuinely sorry that I’ve caused Laura and Felicia pain — I had considered them very close friends, and would never intend to hurt them.”

“I’d also like to note that the allegations against me involved no violence, threats, coercion, or power imbalance of any kind. Yet they have irrevocably destroyed my reputation, my professional network, my nine-year career in journalism, and any hope for a rewarding career in the future; they have branded me with a scarlet letter for life, and driven me to the brink of suicide.”

He did not comment on the L.A. Times’ investigation or his resignation and added that he would have more to say in the near future. But he expressed sadness and horror at how he said the community of foreign journalists in China accepted Sonmez’s version of events before hearing his side of the story.

“I am a true supporter of women’s rights, but I wouldn’t wish trial-by-Twitter on anybody, especially when it concerns their most private moments.”

In her original account, Tucker said she felt “very pressured” to have intercourse with Kaiman – who she desribed as very tall – despite voicing her lack of consent several times. In her account, Sonmez described having to repeatedly tell Kaiman “no” and push him away to stop him trying to have sex with her on a dark, quiet street. She also mentioned that he was “much bigger” than her.

L.A. Times Beijing Bureau Chief Jonathan Kaiman resigns after investigation into alleged sexual misconduct