Statement by @sciencemagazine Editor-in-Chief on my termination repeats non-explanation by @aaas

Since I was informed on March 10 that my contract with Science was being terminated after 25 years of service to the journal, officials of the AAAS, the publisher of Science, have issued two statements about it. They both insist that it had nothing to do with my investigative piece into allegations of sexual misconduct by Brian Richmond, curator of human origins at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. The first statement came on March 11; the second was issued just yesterday by Science Editor-in-Chief Marcia McNutt (who will soon become the first woman president of the National Academy of Sciences.)

This second statement was issued by Marcia to the Anthropology section of the AAAS, Section H, and was posted on its Facebook page as follows:

"AAAS is saddened by Michael Balter’s recent statements, but will not comment on matters related to anyone who has worked for AAAS, whether they were on staff or working under a freelance contract, as in Mr. Balter’s case. However, contrary to a public narrative that has been set forth by others, the ending of Mr. Balter’s association with AAAS is not related in any way to the content of the news story published in Science on allegations of sexual misconduct against Brian Richmond. Our commitment to the published story, and to covering the extremely important topic of sexual harassment in science, remains unwavering."

In my original blog post about the termination, I provided my own side of the story, which is that the termination has everything to do with serious conflicts that arose between me and my editors during the preparation of the story. This is the "breakdown of trust" that Science's news editor referred to when he broke the news to me by telephone. In my response to Marcia's statement on the Section H Facebook page, I waived my rights to privacy in this matter so that AAAS can feel entirely free to tell its side of the story and respond to repeated queries from the scientific community (social media posts amounting to many thousands of individual posts.) I still hope that it will do so, as I may well have more to say about the entire affair in the coming days given that my credibility and my reputation are on the line. There was indeed a "breakdown of trust"--on my side, it was my trust in my editors that they were pursuing the story in an ethical way and with correct motivations.

Much more importantly than my personal situation, however, Science has removed me from an ongoing story, which I am far and away in the best position to continue to report on: The AMNH's third investigation into the allegations against Richmond, and the action that the museum may or may not take once it is completed, which should be quite soon from the information I have been able to gather about it. No matter how that turns out in the end, it is of vital interest to the scientific community. As I pointed out in my previous blog post, Science was happy to have me continue to report on dinosaurs and stone throwing chimps and pursue other story ideas for a full month after the Brian Richmond story was published. Why now all the sudden rush to remove me from the Richmond story before I had completed the job?

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