Mario Batali steps away from 'Chew,' restaurant empire amid sexual harassment allegations

By Karen Butler and Daniel Uria  |  Updated Dec. 11, 2017 at 8:59 PM
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Dec. 11 (UPI) -- Celebrity chef Mario Batali is stepping away from the day-to-day operations of his restaurant empire, as well as his co-hosting position on the lifestyle program The Chew, after sexual harassment allegations against him have come to light.

Four women told Eater New York Batali touched them inappropriately during the past two decades.

Batali, 57, did not deny the allegations when asked to comment.

"I apologize to the people I have mistreated and hurt," the cook and author said in a statement. "Although the identities of most of the individuals mentioned in these stories have not been revealed to me, much of the behavior described does, in fact, match up with ways I have acted. That behavior was wrong and there are no excuses. I take full responsibility and am deeply sorry for any pain, humiliation or discomfort I have caused to my peers, employees, customers, friends and family. I have work to do to try to regain the trust of those I have hurt and disappointed. For this reason, I am going to step away from day-to-day operations of my businesses. We built these restaurants so that our guests could have fun and indulge, but I took that too far in my own behavior. I won't make that mistake again. I want any place I am associated with to feel comfortable and safe for the people who work or dine there."

USA Today said ABC confirmed it has temporarily removed Batali from The Chew ensemble.

"We have asked Mario Batali to step away from The Chew while we review the allegations that have just recently come to our attention," the network said in a statement. "ABC takes matters like this very seriously as we are committed to a safe work environment. While we are unaware of any type of inappropriate behavior involving him and anyone affiliated with the show, we will swiftly address any alleged violations of our standards of conduct."

The Chew, which tapes in New York, is now in its seventh season. Batali co-hosted the series with Carla Hall, Clinton Kelly and Michael Symon since it started. Daphne Oz left the show after six seasons to focus on her growing family.

Meanwhile, The New Yorker fired Washington correspondent Ryan Lizza on Monday, saying he engaged in "improper sexual conduct."

"The New Yorker recently learned that Ryan Lizza engaged in what we believe was improper sexual conduct," the magazine said.

Lizza also was suspended by CNN, where he appeared as an on-air contributor.

"We have just learned of the New Yorker's decision. Ryan Lizza will not appear on CNN while we look into this matter," CNN said.

Lizza denied the accusations, describing his conduct as a "respectful relationship" with a woman he dated.

"I am dismayed that The New Yorker has decided to characterize a respectful relationship with a woman I dated as somehow inappropriate. The New Yorker was unable to cite any company policy that was violated. I am sorry to my friends, workplace colleagues, and loved ones for any embarrassment this episode may cause," Lizza said. "I love The New Yorker, my home for the last decade, and I have the highest regard for the people who work there. But this decision, which was made hastily and without a full investigation of the relevant facts, was a terrible mistake."

Douglas Wigdor, an attorney for the firm representing the victim released a statement rejecting Lizza's denial.

"In no way did Mr. Lizza's misconduct constitute a 'respectful relationship' as he has now tried to characterize it. Our client reported Mr. Lizza's actions to ensure that he would be held accountable and in the hope that by coming forward she would help other potential victims," Wigdor said.

Also, Tom Ashbrook, host of NPR's On Point, was suspended Wednesday while the network investigates accusations of sexual misconduct brought against him by 11 mostly young women and men.

The group of women and men who worked on the show delivered a multi-page document to WBUR -- the station that produces the show -- and the station's owner, Boston University, citing a pattern of abuse including name calling and belittling critiques of show ideas during meetings, 'creepy' sex talk, hugs and back or neck rubs after a dressing down.

"Working at On Point as a young woman in journalism sets up a very bizarre understanding of expectations," a former producer who signed the complaint said. "It has taken several years to adjust my understanding of what is normal behavior and what is not in the workplace."

Ashbrook wrote a text to the station saying he was "stunned that a few former colleagues have apparently come forward with allegations that have not been shared with me" and mentioned the stress of producing a daily, two-hour news show.

"In the pressure of a live radio environment, I have at times been a tough and demanding boss. We aspire to put out a top-notch show. Many people have thrived in that environment; a few have not," he said.

Ashbrook added he has "no idea what is being alleged, nor by whom" but said he is "sure that once the facts come out that people will see me for who I am -- flawed but caring and decent in all my dealings with others."

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