The Washington Post’s Tokyo bureau chief is leaving the paper just one month after it was revealed that he continued to cover stories about sexual harassment despite being accused of misconduct several years ago—an ordeal that raised newsroom concerns about managerial hypocrisy.
In a memo to Post staff shared Thursday with The Daily Beast, the paper’s leadership announced that Simon Denyer will leave for a “career change” and that he would be replaced by fellow Tokyo-based reporter Michelle Ye Hee Lee.
In a discrimination lawsuit against the paper, filed earlier this year, political reporter Felicia Sonmez noted that while The Washington Post’s former executive editor Marty Baron prohibited her from covering sexual-misconduct stories after she disclosed her own assault, the same ban did not exist for an male colleague who allegedly sent “an unsolicited photo of his underwear-covered crotch to a young woman” before continuing to cover similar stories.
Sonmez did not disclose the name of the male reporter, and did not respond to questions about the reporter’s identity. But The Daily Beast reported that the lawsuit referred to previously unreported allegations against Denyer, who had previously served as the paper’s bureau chief in China. (The Post declined to comment at the time. An attorney from Boies Schiller Flexner LLP, the well-known firm that previously represented Harvey Weinstein, sent The Daily Beast a six-page legal letter on the Tokyo bureau chief’s behalf, but would not offer any information or clarification on the record.)
The allegations came from a 2018 WeChat thread among foreign correspondents in China, discussing the misconduct allegations made by Laura Tucker, then a law student, against the Los Angeles Times’ then-Beijing bureau chief Jonathan Kaiman. Several male members of the chat attacked Tucker, and one female reporter lamented their dismissiveness, claiming that men in the WeChat thread had previously tried to block women from their pick-up soccer matches. After Denyer replied with what she characterized as snark, the female reporter dropped a bombshell for all to read: “Your snarkiness is in contrast to the thoughtful piece on the China #metoo movement you did,” she wrote, according to screenshots of the chat. “But it’s not surprising as you’ve sent me an unsolicited pantless photo of yourself.”
The female reporter’s claims made their way back to Post leadership, which opened an investigation at the time. Management ultimately ruled no professional wrongdoing on Denyer’s part, instead issuing a warning. And since the incident, he went on to cover MeToo-related incidents in China and Japan.
A spokesperson for the Post did not immediately return a request for comment on his exit from the paper. Denyer and his attorney also did not immediately respond to a query.
In his 11 years with the paper, Denyer served as a bureau chief in India, China, and then Japan. During his tenure, the Post’s internal memo noted, he was part of a Pulitzer-winning team that chronicled climate change’s extreme impact in various locations.
—Lachlan Cartwright contributed reporting.