LA Times suspends Beijing chief amid sexual misconduct probe

FILE - In this May 16, 2016, file photo, pedestrians look at news photos posted outside the Los Angeles Times building in downtown Los Angeles. The Los Angeles Times suspended the head of its Beijing bureau Wednesday, May 16, 2018, after he was accused of sexual misconduct for a second time. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)

LA Times suspends Beijing bureau chief after accusations of sexual misconduct

BEIJING — The Los Angeles Times suspended the head of its Beijing bureau Wednesday after he was accused of sexual misconduct for a second time.

The newspaper said it has launched an investigation into allegations against Jonathan Kaiman made by a former Wall Street Journal editor. In January, another woman accused Kaiman, who was hired by the LA Times in China in 2015, of sexual misconduct.

Felicia Sonmez, who has reported for the WSJ and Agence France-Presse in China, detailed what she called Kaiman's "problematic behavior" in an email shared Tuesday with the Foreign Correspondents' Club of China.

In her email, Sonmez recounted her experiences with Kaiman following a summer party hosted by the FCCC last September. "Even though parts of the evening were consensual," Sonmez wrote, "Jon escalated things in a way that crossed the line."

Kaiman said in a statement read over the phone to The Associated Press that "all of the acts we engaged in were mutually consensual."

According to Sonmez, she and Kaiman were both "quite drunk" when she drove Kaiman home on her electric scooter. On the way, Sonmez said, Kaiman lifted up her dress and sexually touched her without her consent.

"It took me repeatedly telling him no and pushing him away for him to finally stop," she wrote, recounting that on two occasions Kaiman started taking off his shorts in public despite her protests.

Sonmez said she and Kaiman then engaged in intercourse in his apartment.

"I am devastated by the fact that I was not more sober so that I could say with absolute certainty whether what happened that night was rape," she said.

Kaiman said he remembers the night differently.

"My perception and Ms. Sonmez's perception of that night's events differ greatly," he said in his statement. "It's unfortunate that, in hindsight, she feels the way she does about that night. I am a proponent of women's rights and believe that every woman has a right to be heard and to tell her truth."

Kaiman said on his website that he is working on a book about a U.S. World War II flight crew that went missing in southwestern China.

Sonmez, who now lives in Washington, D.C., told the AP that she was "heartened to hear that the LA Times is taking this matter seriously."

"Whether it takes place in the US or while on assignment abroad, sexual misconduct should never be tolerated by any news organization," she said. "I urge the newspaper to conduct a full investigation of all of the allegations against Jon Kaiman."

Laura Tucker, a former roommate of Kaiman's, said in an online post this January that he pressured her to have sex with him in 2013. At the time the post was published, Kaiman was the president of the FCCC. He apologized to Tucker on Twitter and resigned from his FCCC position.

Tucker praised Sonmez's letter in an email to the AP.

"I am furious but unsurprised that my experience was not an isolated event," Tucker said. "I applaud Ms. Sonmez for coming forward and echo her desire for a full investigation."

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