BethAnn McLaughlin, allies and enablers, continued harassment of #MeToo reporter, amended complaint in Kurin v. Balter [Updated August 7, 2020]

BethAnn McLaughlin (aka @McLNeuro, aka "Alepo"
By now this photo of neuroscientist BethAnn McLaughlin should be familiar to many, especially readers of this blog. The story of her pretending to be a Hopi anthropologist at Arizona State University named "Alepo" (Twitter handle @Sciencing_Bi) has now been told by the New York Times, Science, Inside Higher Education (a particularly detailed account by Colleen Flaherty), BuzzFeed (by Peter Aldhous, who broke some of the earliest stories about McLaughlin's imperious "leadership" of the #MeTooSTEM movement), and numerous other publications.

My own reporting on McLaughlin has been restricted to one particularly egregious episode, when she threatened to sue Science Writers in New York if we held a panel for journalists about reporting on #MeTooSTEM issues. Out of an overabundance of precaution, SWINY's leaders cancelled the event (over my objections, for the record.)

During my own #MeTooSTEM reporting, which I have carried out continuously for the last five years, I have encountered McLaughlin on Twitter from time to time, usually when she was attacking me for allegedly exploiting victims of sexual abuse or "centering" myself in my reporting (an accusation that has often been repeated by a small number of #MeToo activists and all too often believed by those who do not know the facts.) More on that in a moment.

But I only recall one encounter with "Alepo," back when no one had any idea that McLaughlin's now deceased alter ego (she supposedly died from COVID-19, and McLaughlin held a small Zoom memorial service for her) was actually McLaughlin herself. That was in spring 2019, when I escorted sexual predator David Yesner, formerly of the University of Alaska, out of the annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology in Albuquerque. That turned into a celebrated episode, widely covered by the scientific press, and led to a large movement (still ongoing) among archaeologists to either reform or abandon the SAA for its lackadaisical attitudes towards the victims of sexual abuse in archaeology.

In a Twitter thread, "Alepo" criticized me for the stand I took at the SAA meeting, suggesting that it was another example of my "centering" myself over victims and survivors. A few others had suggested that I was "grandstanding" when I did what I hope anyone else would have done. The falsehood was so blatant that a University of Alaska faculty member and one of the survivors of Yesner's abuse felt compelled to respond to "Alepo" and point out that I had acted at the request of the survivors, who asked for help dealing with Yesner so that they could feel safe attending the sessions they wanted to (which Yesner, being in the same basic research area, was also attending.)

I have a point by mentioning all this, and it's not to talk about myself, much as I have been accused of that over the past five years. The point is that many scientists and academics whose solidarity with #MeToo activism is not in doubt have nevertheless had a difficult time distinguishing allies from enablers of abuse, or allies from individuals--like BethAnn McLaughlin--who really are in this movement for themselves and for the aggrandizement of their own egos. I will not mention any names, but a number of those who are now shouting loudly about how they were betrayed by McLaughlin's mendacity cheered on both her and "Alepo" for a long time, including--sometimes especially--their attacks on people, including reporters like me, who are proven allies in this struggle.

Everyone involved has to think about that, because McLaughlin is NOT an aberration but a symptom of a serious problem in this and perhaps all movements: It is easy to attack those who have little power, and engage in internecine warfare, and much harder to go up against those who wield the real power and run the patriarchal system for their own ends.

I am happy to see that a number of honest activists have been making this same point over the past few days, and I hope this time it will stick.

Kurin v. Balter: An enabler of sexual abuse ramps up her campaign against the reporter who exposed her.

Readers of this blog are also well aware that I have been sued for $10 million in defamation damages (marked down by the court from the original $18 million demand) by University of California, Santa Barbara archaeologist Danielle Kurin. Kurin, who is up for tenure beginning next month, is trying to blame me and my reporting for the fact that she may not get it. While all I have done is accurately and honestly reported on her thoroughly documented misconduct, Kurin is trying to deflect from her own misdeeds. Unfortunately for her, members of her department are now well aware of the truth of what I have reported, and thus this strategy is already backfiring on her (for details and backlinks about this case, please start with this post and work backwards.)

Kurin's attorney, David Scher of the Hoyer Law Group, has just filed an amended complaint in the case, in which my continuing coverage of her and the lawsuit are used to try to demonstrate that I have "actual malice" towards her (the pdf file is available on some court reporting Web sites, but I will post it on this blog once I have had a chance to convert it.) Unfortunately for Scher and his client, truth is an absolute defense to defamation cases in both state and federal courts (this one is in the Southern District for New York) and thus the malice issue will not be relevant in the end.

I am working on my Answer to the Complaint, which will not only demonstrate the many falsehoods in the original, but also include many previously unreported details about her abuses, bullying, attempts at retaliation, and other misconduct. She cannot win this, but she is trying to cause me as much pain as possible. In doing so, she is attacking freedom of the press and the truth itself. That is a battle I think any reporter should welcome.

One of Kurin's assertions is that I am motivated in part by a lascivious interest in people's sex lives, and that is why I am a #MeToo reporter. On that point, and as an addition to my remarks above about BethAnn McLaughlin and her enablers, I asked Martina Brostrom if she would write a testimonial about my #MeToo reporting to include in my Answer to the lawsuit. Martina, whose name is probably not well known outside of Europe, is a former staff member of the United Nations agency UNAIDS who was sexually assaulted by her supervisor. When she complained about it, a long campaign of retaliation began, which eventually led to her being fired. (Martina was earlier featured on Christiane Amanpour's CNN program, where she got a chance to tell her story.)

I was the first to break the news of Martina's case, on social media, where I often break news of new #MeToo allegations. She had told me that one day, when it was most effective, she would tell the world about the role I played. (I did not seek to do a big investigation myself, but tried to interest other reporters based in the US about it, to little avail. Some of those journalists would check with their "sources" at UNAIDS--individuals directly involved in the retaliation campaign against Martina--who would say the allegations were bogus.)

The other day Martina asked me what she could do to help with the lawsuit. I said that if she was going to reveal my early role in the story, now was the time. I will be including what she has to say below in the lawsuit, but please forgive me if I also post this as a riposte to the critics who have believed the falsehoods of McLaughlin, "Alepo," and a few other gatekeepers (especially in anthropology and archaeology) who have sung their tune. In doing so, they have sought to deprive victims and survivors of the investigative skills of a reporter with 42 years of experience, and who has investigated more #MeToo cases than any other reporter--as much as he salutes the hard work of those other colleagues who have also chosen this sometimes thankless beat.

                                                                                                                                     [August 4, 2020]
To whom it may concern,

My name is Martina Brostrom. I am former civil servant of the United Nations and a victim and survivor of sexual assault. My case has attracted media attention across continents and mobilised civil society, academics and legal experts alike. Some credit my case to have triggered a metoo movement in the United Nations. Following an assault I suffered in 2015, I reported it to management for action. Rather than implementing the applicable rules and offering me the support the organisational policies provided for, I became subjected to severe and systemic retaliation. The assault and the retaliation are now subject of an international lawsuit.

I came in contact with Michael Balter after he had been tipped off about my story by a person who continues to remain anonymous to me. Despite being in a phase of my life when I had suffered sexual assault, was deeply anxious, under distress and living terrible retaliation from my employer for reporting the assault, I found myself trusting Michael Balter and wanting to share my story with him. Once I started engaging with Michael Balter, this trust developed into a profound respect for his journalism. Michael was the journalist who first broke my story to the public about what had happened to me and my struggle for justice and accountability. Michael Balter has always believed in me, taken time to listen and has always and consistently been very sensitive and respectful in his reporting and in discussing very personal and private matters with me. Never once has he made me feel uncomfortable or felt as if my integrity was infringed or questioned. As a victim of sexual assault this has been particularly important to me. Something I really have appreciated over the years is how Michael Balter has never abandoned my story but continued to cover and closely monitor it. With complete professionalism and uncompromised integrity, Michael Balter has always tried to bring attention to my story and other stories of victims and survivors of abuse and assault. I am very grateful to have crossed paths with Michael Balter, who continues to be an ally for metoo, women’s rights and for victims and survivors of sexual assault in their pursuit for justice- a cause we jointly share.             

Martina Brostrom

The archaeologist whose husband repeatedly harassed and assaulted students continues her harassment of the reporter who exposed her failure to protect vulnerable colleagues.

Just yesterday Danielle Kurin's attorney, David Scher, sent me a "courtesy" copy of this New York freedom of information request to my former employer, City College of New York,  where I taught journalism all last year to undergraduates. It's purpose is obvious, so I will just make a couple of comments on it. First, of course, he will find nothing--no student complaints, no Title IX complaints, no evidence of misconduct on my part whatsoever. I was laid off along with 2800 other adjuncts due to the budget crisis caused by the pandemic. He will find out, however, that I received the highest student evaluation scores of my entire teaching career, which includes a year teaching journalism at Boston University and six years teaching journalism at New York University (both at the graduate level.)

But what if he did find something? What if I was subject to just as many Title IX filings as Danielle Kurin (at least five at last count)? It would change nothing about the accuracy of my reporting about her. This kind of harassment cannot work, and will not work. If you agree, please contribute to my GoFundMe for the extensive legal expenses required to protect freedom of the press and the rights of survivors to tell their stories.

August 5, 2020

Via Email 

University Central Office 
Records Access Officer 
205 East 42nd Street 
New York, NY 10017 
The City College of New York

Paul F. Occhiogrosso, Esq. 
Records Access Officer 
Executive Counsel to the President 
Wille Administration Building, Rm. 200 
160 Convent Avenue 
New York, NY 10031 
Craig Newmark Graduate School Of Journalism At CUNY

Amy Dunkin 
Records Access Officer 
Director of Academic Operations & Title IX Coordinator 
219 W. 40th Street, Room 415 
New York, NY 10018

RE: NY Freedom of Information Law Request for Michael Balter 
Dear CUNY Records Access Officers: 
Pursuant to the New York Freedom of Information Law, N.Y. Pub. Off. Law §§ 84 to 99, I write to request access to and a copy of all records relating to Michael Balter (“Mr. Balter”). I understand Mr. Balter previously taught journalism for the City University of New York. 
I am specifically requesting that you include in your response to this request all: 
  • • Correspondence to or from Mr. Balter or regarding Mr. Balter; 
  • • Mr. Balter’s personnel file; 
Page | 2 

  • • Any complaints regarding Mr. Balter; 
  • • Any records relating in any way to Title IX complaints or investigations relating to Mr. Balter; and 
  • • Any materials relating directly to Mr. Balter’s termination or the non-renewal of his employment agreement. I realize that you may have an abundance of records relating to this last item, given the larger layoffs and furloughs that recently took place. I request only documents relating specifically to Mr. Balter as an individual. 

If your agency does not maintain these public records, please let me know who does and include the proper custodian’s name and address.
I agree to pay any reasonable copying and postage fees of not more than $500. If the cost would be greater than this amount, please notify me. Please provide a receipt indicating the charges for each document.
As provided by the open records law, I will expect your response within five (5) business days. See N.Y. Pub. Off. Law § 89(3).
If you choose to deny this request, please provide a written explanation for the denial including a reference to the specific statutory exemption(s) upon which you rely. Also, please provide all segregable portions of otherwise exempt material. 

I would note that an unreasonable violation of the open records law can result in the award of court costs and reasonable attorney fees. See N.Y. Pub. Off. Law Sec. 89(4)(c). 


Hoyer Law Group, PLLC 

/s/ David Fulleborn 
David Fulleborn, Esq 

Addendum: The Confessions of a #MeToo Reporter. (Please click on the link.)

Update August 7, 2020: CUNY tells Kurin's lawyers no documents forthcoming. Attempts at harassment and intimidation not working well.

Sent as a "courtesy" by David Scher, it appears that his request for my employee records at City College of New York is not going well. As I explained to Scher, I did not work at the Newmark journalism school, but at the journalism program at City College of New York.

From: Lori Fox <>
Sent: Wednesday, August 5, 2020 9:02 PM
Subject: FW: FOIL Request

This will respond to your FOIL request, below. 

Mr. Balter has not been an employee of the Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY, thus we have no employment records. 

Pursuant to §87(2)(b), we will not provide you with copies of any correspondence between the School and Mr. Balter because doing so would violate his personal privacy. 

If you disagree with any ruling made in connection with this request, you can appeal to the Office of the General Counsel at the CUNY Central Office,  205 East 42nd Street, New York, New York 10017.

Lori Fox

CUNY employees are working remotely; mail to my office is unreliable.  Please send all communications by email.

Executive Counsel, CUNY School of Law, Guttman Community College, Macaulay Honors College & Newmark School of Journalism       

Post a Comment


Anonymous said…
I would like to personally, though still anonymously, thank Martina Brostrom for providing her letter of support to Mr. Balter. Her words deeply echoed with my experience, and particularly “Rather than implementing the applicable rules and offering me the support the organisational policies provided for, I became subjected to severe and systemic retaliation… Once I started engaging with Michael Balter, this trust developed into a profound respect for his journalism.”
I must confess that at first I didn’t trust Balter, and I am not so sure he trusted me either. As much as I needed to make sure he will not twist my words for some tabloid-worthy scoop, he too needed to verify that my story is accurate and that my complaints are genuine. Once he did, he took action through this blog and social media and my abuser was promptly fired (after years of complaints against him!). Thanks again Michael, and please know that there are many who owe you a great debt of gratitude that can never be repaid (but donating to your GoFundMe will hopefully help in your current fight for justice).
Anonymous said…
"Any records relating in any way to Title IX complaints or investigations relating to Mr. Balter; "
Does that mean if Balter was involved as a witness in someone else's Title IX investigation Scher wants those records as well. So he's indirectly threatening other victims and people involved in other Title IX cases and hoping what.. that they'll get scared and ask you to give in?

"I agree to pay any reasonable copying and postage fees of not more than $500. If the cost would be greater than this amount, please notify me. Please provide a receipt indicating the charges for each document." WHAAAAAT? He's suing for TEN MILLION on behalf of his client and he's nickel and dime-ing University staff about postage fees. WHAT A COMPLETE HACK!!!
Anonymous said…
"I agree to pay any reasonable copying and postage fees of not more than $500. If the cost would be greater than this amount, please notify me. Please provide a receipt indicating the charges for each document."

Dear University Administrator,

Yeah so... I would like you to spend time, in the middle of a pandemic to research and locate any documents that fit these vague parameters I've laid out for you. I am completely oblivious to the fact that universities are severely understaffed right now and what few employees departments still have are overworked and forced to work from home because the united states is in the middle of a really badly managed pandemic. Nevermind all that, I am making these demands because Law School never taught me common sense or tact in asking for help. I want you and your staff to spend time doing this work that has nothing to do with the work you've been hired by the university to do. Once you've done this work for free know that I'm not going to pay for any postage fees beyond $500 even though as a lawyer that's probably close to my hourly rate. Nah.... I'm not going to pay more than $500 for the POSTAGE and even that I want thoroughly documented receipts.

A Monumental Sham of a Lawyer
Anonymous said…
While it's reasonable to say that some of the criticsm against you as self-centering is overblown, it seems like this post is implying that you don't think you have ever engaged in self-centering or that you've needed to realign reporting to be less focused on yourself. I think a more realistic and humble response would be to recognize that possibility and question the broader community whether or not it is true that your reporting centers too much on yourself, how community members who have been sexually harassed/assaulted could be more supported, and additional ways you can use your platform to make the field safer. I would like to see some form of humility and recognition of ways that you could modify future reporting to be less centering on yourself. For example, within these recent posts you have gone so far as to use your reporting as "an opportunity to do a little shameless promotion of my book." Can you argue that such actions are not self-centering?
Anonymous said…
The social media commenters center Balter by fixating on his every move. He doesn't have to do it because the rest of you do it for him. Anyone who knows Balter personally knows that he is constantly turning the conversation to the needs of survivors of harassment and abuse. What if you took all the energy you focus on Balter the reporter and turned it toward the harassers and abusers? I don't see you doing both. It takes zero courage to fixate on Balter's perceived missteps (show the receipts, please). So many take that easy route to appear like they're a part of the fight for equity and justice in our fields. Some of us can see right through the facade. Please, I am begging you to reflect and do better.
Michael Balter said…
On the issue of "centering" mentioned by the commenter above: A lot of what is referred to by some critics as "centering" is actually my admittedly relentless efforts to publicize every case I work on and to maximize how widely the reporting is seen. The purpose of this, as should be obvious, is to maximize the effectiveness of my reporting in the real world rather than just on social media. The results are very clear. Ask Brian Richmond, Miguel Pinto, William Hylander, Nick Longrich, David Lordkipanidze, Luiz Loures, Deanna Grimstead, Michael Westaway, Alan Cooper, Ran Boytner, Peter Rathjen, Luis Jaime Castillo Butters, and Danielle Kurin whether my reporting was just an example of a reporter "centering" himself or whether it has had real results on their careers and reputations, well deserved ones at that. This is also true of the other #MeToo reporters who work for mainstream publications and thus don't have to do quite so much promotion of their investigations because their employers do it for them.
Anonymous said…
I only became aware of the 'Alepo' account after the Crimson article on harassment within Harvard's antro department, and frankly very little of what she wrote rang true. Her description of Urton's behavior was at odds with that detailed by his actual victims, and that crap about being thrown off digs for bare knuckle fighting with grabby field assistants? If something like that ever happened, that woman would be a legend in Andean circles, and would be able to drink for free on the story for years.
Anonymous said…
In response to Anonymous commenter "August 6, 2020 at 1:56 PM", who wrote:
"I would like to see some form of humility and recognition of ways that you could modify future reporting to be less centering on yourself. For example, within these recent posts you have gone so far as to use your reporting as "an opportunity to do a little shameless promotion of my book." Can you argue that such actions are not self-centering?

The book was brought up only because Danielle Kurin used her shamelessly it in her complaint. Balter's "promotion" actually consisted of citing well known archaeologists who support his reporting and, by extension, refute her claims. If I was in his position, I would have done the exact same thing. Besides, many professionals, archaeologists or not, "shamelessly promote" their books on their blogs. Having pride in your work is not "self-centering".