A Daily Beast Exclusive
During an increasingly ugly meeting, the company’s COO refused to answer whether money laundering allegations were true and blamed staff for undermining the business.
By Maxwell Tani
During a private meeting with editors this week, a top Newsweek executive blamed his own journalists for the magazine’s recent turmoil and refused to answer whether the company committed financial crimes.
Newsweek Media Group interim Chief Content Officer Johnathan Davis took questions from editors for nearly 90 minutes on Wednesday, according to recording obtained by The Daily Beast, about firings and investigations that have engulfed the company.
Last month, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office raided Newsweek Media Group’s headquarters in New York as part of an ongoing investigation into the company for potential financial crimes. On Monday, Newsweek Media Group fired editor in chief Bob Roe, executive editor Ken Li, and reporter Celeste Katz, who reported on the raid and recent allegations that the company engaged in traffic and advertising fraud.
“[The raid] led to the BuzzFeed article about the fake clicks, which you orchestrated,” breaking news editor Gersh Kuntzman said. “So you should be honest with everybody in this room: Are we running a money laundering operation? Are we evading taxes? You need to tell us that because we can’t work here if you’re a liar.”
Davis declined to answer directly, citing the D.A.’s probe.
“There’s an investigation going on right now that’s active,” Davis said. “And they’re going to come up with their own conclusions. And when that comes out, you’re going to know the answer.”
And though he would not say why Katz was fired, Davis said that Roe and Li were let go after they rebuffed management’s calls for Newsweek to stop reporting on the company’s finances.
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