The AAPA met with ex-VP Michael Balter on March 18 to hear about the $10-million defamation lawsuit he is fighting and the issues surrounding it. Michael was served with the suit last June by archeologist Danielle Kurin, a professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Victims, or survivors as they prefer to be called, allege she was complicit in her former husband’s sexual harassment of female students while on fieldwork in Peru.
Michael, who now lives near New York City, started reporting on sexual harassment in academia five years ago, before the Harvey Weinstein case pushed #MeToo to center stage. His first piece on the issue was a major investigation in Science of a case at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Since then he has continued his #MeToo reporting for The Verge, among other publications, and as a freelance journalist.
“I stand entirely by my reporting, which has only been bolstered as discovery in the lawsuit has gone forward, » he told the AAPA. “This lawsuit is not just about me. The real issues are freedom of the press and the rights of victims and survivors to tell their stories without fear of retaliation, including in the form of lawsuits.”
Michael is backed in the lawsuit by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, and the Committee to Protect Journalists, and is represented by a pro bono team of six attorneys.