‘Tech evangelist’ defends himself on harassment allegations, reveals he has no idea what sexual harassment is

Robert Scoble.
Image: Ole Spata/Epa/REX/Shutterstock

Sexual harassment doesn’t just mean a boss harassing his secretary. Any person in the workplace can sexually harass any of his colleagues—even if he doesn’t have the power to “make or break” their careers. 

That’s something that Robert Scoble, the Silicon Valley entrepreneur, blogger, and fixture at tech conferences, doesn’t seem to understand. 

Scoble responded Wednesday afternoon to sexual harassment allegations against him with a lengthy, ill-advised blog post. Business Insider reported Friday that three women accused Scoble of harassment between 2009 and 2014. One woman said Scoble groped her and kissed another woman when she was drunk and unable to consent; one woman said Scoble and his wife both verbally harassed her, and a third woman said Scoble touched her inappropriately during a work-related event at which alcohol was present. TechCrunch reported further allegations. Scoble resigned from his role as a partner at his VR/AR startup three days later. 

“I have rejected my lawyer’s advice to not make a statement and in a spirit of healing I would like to address the issue head on with open and honest dialogue,” Scoble wrote. 

A spirit of healing sounds great, but it doesn’t work if you don’t understand the basic underlying problem. 

Scoble goes into detail in his attempts to rebut allegations against him and the women who made them: Sarah Seitz, Michelle Greer, Quinn Norton, and Sarah Kunst. It all reads as a little unhinged, attempting to explain why the things he did weren’t actually harassment. 

Even the most rudimentary fact check by news outlets would have caught a few obvious things. If I were guilty of all the things said about me I would still not be in a position to have sexually harassed anyone. I don’t have employees, I don’t cut checks for investment. None of the women who came forward were ever in a position where I could make or break their careers. Sexual Harassment requires that I have such power. That is not to say that the allegations aren’t serious. I take them very seriously, but it is to say that, TechCrunch, Business Insider and others, in their rush to publish ClickBait were so obviously flawed that it is clear they no longer care about the truth or doing actual journalism.

Scoble’s conclusion that “Sexual Harassment requires that I have such power,” is just flat-out wrong. 

The actions described by these women would absolutely be considered harassment. Women working with Scoble in the tech industry don’t need to be direct reports under his management for any of this to matter. It’s inappropriate for anyone—much less a leading tech figure like Scoble—to verbally abuse a peer at a conference; to grope and inappropriately touch women at work events; and to try to kiss women who can’t consent.

And Scoble doesn’t understand how sexual harassment works in the real world either. “If I were guilty of all the things said about me I would still not be in a position to have sexually harassed anyone,” Scoble wrote. This is so widely refuted by reality that it’s hard to treat as a serious argument. Sexual harassment allegations against Casey Affleck didn’t stop him from winning an Oscar or getting a new TV show. Woody Allen is filming a new movie with Selena Gomez. Harvey Weinstein only faced consequences after years of shutting down his accusers and ruling Hollywood. 

Joelle Emerson, who helps companies with diversity and inclusion through her startup Paradigm, explained a lot of these misconceptions about sexual harassment on Twitter: 

Giving platforms and support to other women in tech, as Scoble pointed out he has done, doesn’t negate any of his alleged behavior—not the groping or the verbal abuse or his near-incoherent blog post. Remember Harvey Weinstein’s scholarships for women filmmakers at the University of Southern California? 

So, Scoble can parse the details of all his inappropriate interactions all he likes. A better use of his time might be learning what sexual harassment actually is. 

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