Junot Díaz cleared of sexual misconduct allegations by Pulitzer Prize Board
The board enlisted an independent law firm, Williams & Connolly, to conduct “a thorough, wide-ranging, fair, and independent review of the matter.” A statement released on Friday reads, “The review did not find evidence warranting removal of Professor Díaz from the Board. Accordingly, after full discussion and consideration by the members, Professor Díaz will be welcomed to resume his full duties as a Board member and to fulfill his term, which expires in April of 2019.”
In a statement, Díaz said (via Deadline), “I am grateful the investigation found the truth. I look forward to returning to the Pulitzer’s important work.”
Díaz was publicly accused of forcibly kissing a female writer when she was a graduate student, while two other writers said they faced verbal bullying from him. The author denied the claims.
Monica Byrne, one of the women who came forward, spoke out against the board’s decision in a post on Facebook.
“I’m having trouble breathing,” she wrote on Friday. “There was no scenario — none — I could imagine where the Pulitzer Board would receive the 50+ accounts, leads, sources, and stories of sexual and professional power abuse we gave to the independent counsel, and decide that Junot Diaz was still fit to occupy a position of power over young women. None. This is the same Pulitzer Board that just awarded a prize for #metoo coverage. I just don’t know what to say.”
Explaining how she missed the death of her father in hospice care while trying to connect a journalist with her sources, Byrne went on to write, “There is no way the lawyers didn’t convey everything we told them to the Pulitzer Board. There is no way the Pulitzer Board doesn’t know the depth and history of Diaz’s abusive behavior. This means they do not care. I’m so sorry, everyone. We tried so hard.”
The allegations against Díaz came to light as he published an essay about his own sexual assault at the age of 8, which he cited in his denial of the claims.
“I take responsibility for my past,” he said in a statement to The New York Times. “That is the reason I made the decision to tell the truth of my rape and its damaging aftermath. This conversation is important and must continue. I am listening to and learning from women’s stories in this essential and overdue cultural movement. We must continue to teach all men about consent and boundaries.”
Later, in an interview with The Boston Globe, he wished he had “the presence of mind to rewrite the damn thing,” in reference to his initial statement. “I was shocked,” he said of the accusations. “I was, like, ‘Yo, this doesn’t sound like anything that’s in my life, anything that’s me.'” At the time of the Globe‘s article, his accusers stood by their accounts of Díaz’s actions.
This article was updated with Monica Byrne’s response.