- The New York Times published a report accusing executives at Victoria’s Secret of inappropriate behavior including touching models over their underwear, asking them to sit on their laps, and making crass comments.
- Some of the women who complained believed they were punished for speaking out.
- Victoria’s Secret recently made headlines because Leslie Wexner, an executive and major player in the NYT report, was associated with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. Epstein allegedly pretended to be a Victoria’s Secret recruiter to lure in aspiring models.
- This report also comes at a time where Victoria’s Secret’s future looks unclear. The company recently canceled its famous fashion show, and critics have been slamming its outdated depiction of women.
Allegations in NYT Report
Regular instances of sexual harassment by top executives have dictated the culture at Victoria’s Secret, a new New York Times report alleges.
The Times spoke to 30 people as part of their investigation, which was published Saturday. The allegations focus on two men. The first is Leslie Wexner, the founder of Victoria Secret’s parent company, L Brands. Ed Razek, the other man involved, was an executive many viewed as a proxy to Wexner.
According to the report, Razek would hold his position over models’ heads. One model told the Times that his attitude exuded toxic masculinity and conveyed a message that said: “I am the holder of the power. I can make you or break you.”
The Times’ report alleges that Razek asked models dressed only in their bra and underwear for their phone numbers. He would also urge them to sit on his lap and offer to take them to private dinners.
In one specific instance, he was allegedly watching a fitting for supermodel Bella Hadid, who was being measured for underwear for the famous Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show to make sure the garments cleared broadcast standards.
“Forget the panties,” the Times’ sources allege Razek said to Hadid. He then said that the real question was if the network would let her go “down the runway with those perfect titties.”
At that same fitting, the report also says that he placed his hand on a model’s crotch, over her underwear.
The report said that several HR complaints were made against him with stacks of examples. The women complaining, however, were the ones who found themselves in the most trouble. In one case, a PR employee said that Razek verbally berated her in public. She complained, but to her knowledge, nothing was done and she soon quit. Another employee who complained about his behavior was put on administrative leave one day after lodging her concerns.
One model, Andi Muise, told the paper she felt she was being punished for rejecting Razek’s advances. Back in 2007, when she was 19, he invited her to dinner. She accepted thinking she could form a meaningful, professional relationship with him. On the way, he allegedly tried to kiss her and kept persisting after she refused.
She said this kind of behavior continued over email, where Razek would say he wanted to move in with her or take her “someplace sexy.” Muise told the Times she stayed polite while communicating with him, but when he invited her to come to his home for dinner, she said the idea made her uneasy and did not go. Not much later, she found out that after walking in the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show for four years, she was not being invited back.
The Modern State of Victoria’s Secret
All of this comes as Victoria’s Secret’s future, for a multitude of reasons, sits at a crossroads. In terms of leadership, Razek left L Brand back in August and Wexner could soon follow. The Times claimed that he is considering his own retirement and selling the giant lingerie brand.
The company itself has also seen better days. Due to declining ratings and sales, they canceled the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show in 2019. The event used to be a cultural staple of the fashion industry, with many models aspiring to walk its runway.
Many blame this downfall on the company’s idea of what women should look like. While body inclusivity and positivity has grown more mainstream, Victoria’s Secret still uses tall, thin models. Their hypersexualized image caters to a male fantasy of women.
Both Wexner and Razek played a huge part in keeping that image. According to the Times’ report, when Wexner was pressed about embracing different body types he said, “Nobody goes to a plastic surgeon and says ‘make me fat.’”
Meanwhile, companies like Rihanna’s Savage X Fenty show diverse women and bodies in its advertising. While that brand has risen to success with this messaging, Victoria’s Secret has not kept pace.
This is also just the latest scandal to involve Victoria’s Secret. The brand made headlines in 2019 when it was learned that convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein was a friend and adviser to Wexner.
According to the report, Epstein lured in aspiring models pretending to be a Victoria’s Secret recruiter. In at least two cases, he assaulted the women he brought in. The report claims that Wexner, who was close to Epstein at the time, knew this was happening and did not act on the complaints.
A spokesperson for Wexner declined to speak for the Times. Razek denied the allegations, though he did not get into their specifics. He told the paper what was being reported was either untrue, misconstrued, or out of context.
“I’ve been fortunate to work with countless, world-class models and gifted professionals and take great pride in the mutual respect we have for each other,” he said in an email to the Times.
L Brands released a statement of their own. It was obtained and published in full by NBC in Columbus, Ohio.
“We can assure you that the company is intensely focused on the corporate governance, workplace, and compliance practices that directly impact our 80,000 associates around the world, nearly 90% of whom are female,” the statement said. “We regret any instance where we did not achieve this objective and are fully committed to continuous improvement and complete accountability.”
Lawmakers Call For Action as Oil Companies Post Record Profits Amid Rising Gas Prices
A recent analysis from the Center for American Progress found that the top five oil companies earned over 300% more in profits during the first quarter of 2022 than the same period last year.
As Consumer Prices Climb, Big Oil Profits
American oil companies are facing increased scrutiny over profiteering practices as gas prices continue to surpass record highs driven by Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine.
Last week, costs surged to above $4 per gallon in all 50 states for the first time ever, according to the auto club AAA. Prices are currently averaging over $4.59 per gallon nationwide, which is 50% higher than they were this time last year.
In addition to consumers hurting at the pump, there are also rising concerns for industries that rely on fuel and oil like trucking, freight, airlines, and plastic manufacturers.
To account for high prices, some in sectors have responded by ramping up prices further down the supply chain to account for costs, putting even more of a burden on consumers to pay for everyday items.
But as Americans struggle with sky-high gas prices at a time of record inflation, recently released earnings reports show that many of the world’s largest oil companies thrived in the first quarter of 2022.
ExxonMobil more than doubled its earnings from the same period last year, reporting a net profit of $5.5 billion. Meanwhile, Chevron logged its best quarterly earnings in almost a decade, and Shell had its highest earnings ever.
According to a new analysis conducted by the Center for American Progress, the top five oil companies — including the three mentioned above — earned over 300% more in profits this quarter than during the same time last year.
“In fact, these five companies’ first-quarter profits alone are equivalent to almost 28 percent of what Americans spent to fill up their gas tanks in the same time period,” the report noted.
Per Insider, for at least four of those companies, that growth marks a tremendous increase in profits from even before the pandemic.
Lawmakers Ramp-Up Efforts to Reduce Prices
To address these startling disparities, federal lawmakers have moved in recent weeks to increase pressure on oil companies and take steps to lower prices.
On Thursday, the House of Representatives passed a bill proposed by Rep. Katie Porter (D-Ca.) that aims to reduce gas prices. The legislation, called The Consumer Fuel Price Gouging Prevention Act, would give the president the authority to issue an Energy Emergency Declaration that would be effective for up to 30 days with the possibility of being renewed.
In that emergency period, it would be illegal for anyone to increase gas or home energy fuel prices to a level that is exploitative or “unconscionably excessive.”
The proposal would also give the Federal Trade Commission the power to investigate and manage instances of price gouging from larger companies and give state authorities the ability to enforce price-gouging violations in civil courts.
The bill, which has already seen widespread opposition from Republicans and extensive lobbying from pro-oil interest groups, faces an uphill battle in the 50-50 split Senate.
During debate on the act Thursday, Rep. Porter delivered an impassioned speech accusing oil companies of driving their record profits by using their market power to unfairly increase prices.
“The oil and gas industry currently has more than 9,000 permits to drill for oil on federal land, but they are deliberately keeping production low to please their investors and increase their short-term profits,” she said. “Even when the price of crude oil falls, oil and gas companies have refused to pass those savings on to consumers.”
“Let me be clear: price gouging is anti-capitalist,” Porter continued. “It exploits a lack of competition, which is a hallmark of capitalism. It is an effort to juice corporate profits at the expense of customers. Energy markets are reeling because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Big oil companies, however, are using this temporary chaos to cover up their abuse.”
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (Vox) (NPR)
Lincoln College to Close for Good After COVID and Ransomware Attack Ruin Finances
Last year, 1,043 schools in the U.S. were the victim of ransomware attacks, including 26 colleges or universities, according to an analysis by Emsisoft.
One of the Only Historically Black Colleges in the Midwest Goes Down
After 157 years of educating mostly Black students in Illinois, Lincoln College will close its doors for good on Friday.
The college made the announcement last month, citing financial troubles caused by the coronavirus pandemic and a ransomware attack in December.
Enrollment dropped during the pandemic and the administration had to make costly investments in technology and campus safety measures, according to a statement from the school.
A shrinking endowment put additional pressure on the college’s budget.
The ransomware attack, which the college has said originated from Iran, thwarted admissions activities and hindered access to all institutional data. Systems for recruitment, retention, and fundraising were completely inoperable at a time when the administration needed them most.
In March, the college paid the ransom, which it has said amounted to less than $100,000. But according to Lincoln’s statement, subsequent projections showed enrollment shortfalls so significant the college would need a transformational donation or partnership to make it beyond the present semester.
The college put out a request for $50 million in a last-ditch effort to save itself, but no one came forward to provide it.
A GoFundMe aiming to raise $20 million for the college only collected $2,452 as of Tuesday.
Students and Employees Give a Bittersweet Goodbye
“The loss of history, careers, and a community of students and alumni is immense,” David Gerlach, the college’s president, said in a statement.
Lincoln counts nearly 1,000 enrolled students, and those who did not graduate this spring will leave the institution without degrees.
Gerlach has said that 22 colleges have worked with Lincoln to accept the remaining students, including their credits, tuition prices, and residency requirements.
“I was shocked and saddened by that news because of me being a freshman, so now I have to find someplace for me to go,” one student told WMBD News after the closure was announced.
When a group of students confronted Gerlach at his office about the closure, he responded with an emotional speech.
“I have been fighting hard to save this place,” he said. “But resources are resources. We’ve done everything we possibly could.”
On April 30, alumni were invited back to the campus to revisit the highlights of their college years before the institution closed.
On Saturday, the college held its final graduation ceremony, where over 200 students accepted their diplomas and Quentin Brackenridge performed the Lincoln Alma Mater.
Last year, 1,043 schools in the U.S. were the victim of ransomware attacks, including 26 colleges or universities, according to an analysis by Emsisoft.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Herald Review) (CNN)
U.S. Tops One Million Coronavirus Deaths, WHO Estimates 15 Million Worldwide
India’s real COVID death toll stands at about 4.7 million, ten times higher than official data, the WHO estimated.
One Million Dead
The United States officially surpassed one million coronavirus deaths Wednesday, 26 months after the first death was reported in late February of 2020.
Experts believe that figure is likely an undercount, since there are around 200,000 excess deaths, though some of those may not be COVID-related.
The figure is the equivalent of the population of San Jose, the tenth-largest city in the U.S., vanishing in just over two years. To put the magnitude in visual perspective, NECN published a graphic illustrating what one million deaths looks like.
At the beginning of the pandemic, the White House predicted between 100,000 and 240,000 Americans would die from the coronavirus in a best-case scenario.
By February 2021, over half a million Americans had died of COVID.
The coronavirus has become the third leading cause of death in the U.S. behind heart disease and cancer.
The pandemic’s effects go beyond its death toll. Around a quarter of a million children have lost a caregiver to the virus, including about 200,000 who lost one or both parents. Every COVID-related death leaves an estimated nine people grieving.
The virus has hit certain industries harder than others, with food and agriculture, warehouse operations and manufacturing, and transportation and construction seeing especially high death rates.
People’s mental health has also been affected, with a study in January of five Western countries including the U.S. finding that 13% of people reported symptoms of PTSD attributable to actual or potential contact with the virus.
Fifteen Million Dead
On Thursday, the World Health Organization estimated that nearly 15 million people have died from the pandemic worldwide, a dramatic revision from the 5.4 million previously reported in official statistics.
Between January 2020 and the end of last year, the WHO estimated that between 13.3 million and 16.6 million people died either due to the coronavirus directly or because of factors somehow attributed to the pandemic’s impact on health systems, such as cancer patients who were unable to seek treatment when hospitals were full of COVID patients.
Based on that range, scientists arrived at an approximate total of 14.9 million.
The new estimate shows a 13% increase in deaths than is usually expected for a two-year period.
“This may seem like just a bean-counting exercise, but having these WHO numbers is so critical to understanding how we should combat future pandemics and continue to respond to this one,” Dr. Albert Ko, an infectious diseases specialist at the Yale School of Public Health who was not linked to the WHO research, told the Associated Press.
Most of the deaths occurred in Southeast Asia, Europe, and the Americas.
According to the WHO, India counts the most deaths by far with 4.7 million, ten times its official number.