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Soledad O’Brien on #metoo: ‘Every single industry has a big freaking problem’

Sibile Marcellus

Award-winning journalist and TV news anchor–turned CEO Soledad O’Brien stopped by Oath’s BUILD studio on Monday and weighed in on the #metoo movement and accusations of sexual harassment in business.

“Every single industry has a big freaking problem,” she said.

Accusations of sexual harassment and assault against public figures get more attention than those against people who are less well known, but O’Brien says the problem is pervasive and not limited to the media industry.

“You go to … any factory, and you take 10 women, and say, ‘So you know who are the bad actors here,” and they’ll all name them and they’ll all name the same people, because it’s about power, right? It’s about the opportunity to be able to do that,” said O’Brien.

O’Brien, who is now Starfish Media’s CEO, shared her recollection of a colleague at the start of her career who didn’t complain about being groped for fear of losing her job.

“When I … started working in TV news, I worked with a woman who was an editor, and she would talk about being groped, I was 23 years old, she would talk about just being groped all the time because as an editor she would sit at her desk and people would come up behind her,” said O’Brien.

A new vocabulary

O’Brien herself experienced some unwanted physical contact – unsolicited hugs.

“I’ve worked in newsrooms where I’ve had people who love to hug, and I don’t want to be hugged by them. And not even, I don’t want to hug people. I love hugging. I just don’t want to be hugged by them. I do not want you to touch me. Period,” said O’Brien.

O’Brien believes that as a society, we have not yet figured out a vocabulary for #metoo conversations about sexual harassment and assault.

“I remember Matt Damon was kind of pilloried when he said he thought that there was this spectrum, and everyone was like, ‘Oh you can’t say that.’ Men have no voice in this conversation. And I, I agree with him; I think there is a spectrum. In fact, the law would agree with that,” said O’Brien.

When asked about Today Show host Matt Lauer, who was fired from NBC for sexual misconduct, and former CBS chairman and CEO Les Moonves, who recently resigned amid allegations of sexual abuse, O’Brien acknowledged that when high profile people get taken down, it does damage to the media industry.

“Any time there’s a bad actor in a group, right, wherever it is, it’s bad. I think police officers will tell you the same thing. You can be an amazing police officer for 20 years. And if there’s someone terrible in your organization, everyone’s going to say, ‘This is a terrible organization,” and sometimes a little bit justifiably.

Watch the entire video here:

Sibile Marcellus is an on-air reporter covering the day’s top stories in business for Yahoo Finance’s three daily live shows. Follow her on Twitter @chasingsibile