SALT LAKE CITY — The Salt Lake Tribune has put longtime columnist Robert Kirby on unpaid leave for three months following a review of his behavior toward Utah writer and blogger Courtney Kendrick at an event earlier this summer, the newspaper said.
The review came following a Wednesday Facebook posting by Utah writer Courtney Kendrick who described an encounter with Kirby at an event in Sandy in July, hosted by the Sunstone Education Foundation, at which Kendrick and Kirby were participating.
"The very first thing he said to me when we were alone in the convention center hallway was, 'Let's pretend I picked you up from an escort service and we'll walk over to that table over there together and sit down and chat,'" Kendrick wrote in her post. "I was there as a colleague and fellow writer, and he didn't know me at all. And wasn't he supposed to be the guy who we could be safe around? The progressive man with the newspaper column we all love, right?"
Kendrick wrote that Kirby also offered her a marijuana edible, which she accepted. She noted she felt uneasy about it, but felt "pressured" to please someone she considered having celebrity status. She wrote that Kirby later announced to the symposium participants, without her permission, that she was "high."
"I was then completely blindsided when he proceeded to tell everyone in our session later on that I was high, because he — the great Robert Kirby — gave me weed," Kendrick wrote. "No permission, no checking with me, he just announced it to the crowd as if it were a punchline, rewarded with huge laughs."
An apology appeared on Kirby's Facebook page Thursday.
According to a story posted on the Tribune's website Friday evening, Kirby has been placed on three months of unpaid leave following an "internal investigation" by the publication.
In a statement published separately, Tribune Editor Jennifer Napier-Pearce outlined the basis of the paper's response to the incident.
"After researching multiple complaints, we found that Kirby’s conduct has not been in compliance with Tribune policy. However, we're implementing steps to prevent this behavior in the future. We believe that Kirby's agreement to suspend employment, undergo coaching and attend training reflects his sincere commitment to change. He has been an important contributor to the Tribune, and we believe he can be again.
"During its 147-year history, the Tribune has strived to hold itself and others to the highest standards of integrity, professionalism and respect for the truth. We will continue to do so."
The statement includes a section, attributed to Kirby, in which he offers an apology, but in which Kendrick is not named.
"I'm profoundly sorry that my actions have offended people in the community," Kirby said. "I have a lot of work to do in understanding the pain I have caused.
"After discussing my conduct with Tribune management, I am more aware of the consequences of my actions and I will be undergoing training and counseling to become a better person."
Kirby did not respond to a Deseret News request for comment Friday evening.48 comments on this story
Kendrick, who had seen the news from the Tribune, told the Deseret News that she hopes some good can come from the incident.
"As I've said all along, my posting was never about apologies or punishments, it was about making my community aware of problematic behavior by so-called progressive men," Kendrick said.
"I hope good comes out of this — that more women can find their voices when it matters most. I also hope men reconsider their reactions to women when they tell the truth. It's not a joke and it's not entertainment.
"These are our voices and they won't be silenced anymore."