Young Turks reporter Jordan Chariton was accused of rape and sexual assault by “several former employees” of his media company, Truth Against the Machine, and Facebook chat messages provided to Shadowproof show former employees plotting to have him fired. They discuss ending his career. But does this mean Chariton was the target of some conspiracy?
The allegations revolve around an event that occurred in a hotel room in Flint, Michigan, in May. Carly Hammond, the accuser, informed Shadowproof she is “considering pressing charges.” Chariton plans to sue the Young Turks and the Intercept for “false sexual misconduct allegations.”
It is difficult to prove with the screen shots from the Facebook chat that Chariton was the victim of some “vendetta,” as he publicly claimed. Perhaps, it was distasteful or foolish for Christian Chiakulas, the journalist who broke the story on the allegations, to celebrate. “Ok we’re bringing this motherfucker down,” he declared.
“We don’t want to just do damage, we want to finish it,” Chiakulas wrote. In response, Hammond replied, “If Jordan gets fired from [the Young Turks] then it’s all over. Even [Young Turks host] Jimmy Dore would be an idiot to stick with him if the allegations were strong enough.”
At one point in the chat, Hammond suggested, “You know why people believe shit about [Harvey] Weinstein? Cause 55,000 people accused him and came out about it,” and added, “We have to have at least 5 people.” Chiakulas replied, “With [George] Takei it only took 1.”
But it is also possible the accuser, a former Truth Against the Machine (TATM) employee, was uncertain her story would be believed if she was the only person alleging misconduct.
“We know that Jordan is a public figure with a large following of ardent supporters,” Hammond said in a statement provided to Shadowproof. “Not having a game plan to address how to get the stories out there would have been stupid.”
Chiakulas told Shadowproof, “During the course of our group chat, tensions ran very high, especially for the people who had been closest with Chariton. Throughout it all, I tried to keep the group focused and keep the story Carly wanted to tell succinct. This chat was not begun with any organized motive or goal in mind, but certain goals did organically develop as we spoke with each other.”
He suggested Chariton is taking certain things said out of context to allege a “conspiracy,” which is “nonsense.”
“A group of people, many of whom have never met, bouncing ideas off of each other and venting their frustrations does not equal ‘conspiracy,’” Chiakulas said.
Is it possible Hammond, who is married, made a bad choice that she later regretted? She celebrated a news story in the hotel room and drank beer and had sex with multiple individuals. She went to New York weeks after the alleged sexual assault and stayed with Chariton. She had consensual sex with him twice. However, she left New York very angry at Chariton, and by June, she did not want to speak to Chariton anymore.
Did Hammond consent to having sex with Chariton, but months later, when she reflected on what happened between her and Chariton, she concluded he took advantage of her? And was it then that she retroactively revoked consent to allege rape in the media?
The problem with that interpretration of events, especially for journalists, is that one would have to be able to prove Hammond is fabricating details around what happened in the hotel room. As Chariton even said to Shadowproof, “I very much generally lean on the side of believing women. The statistics are the statistics, and it’s rare when false allegation is made.”
It seems the more critical issue is the zeal for destroying a person so Chariton could never work in media anymore because he allegedly engaged in criminal sexual conduct. He proactively informed the Young Turks he was about to be accused of this horrible act. He went on leave. But a process was never allowed to complete to confirm what is true or false.
Without any due process to objectively establish what is true or false, with the Young Turks unable to investigate the alleged incident itself, all the public has is the “he said, she said,” from parties involved: three people who apparently contend Hammond offered consent versus Hammond’s sensational and very detailed account of an incident that she claims would be considered rape under the criminal code in the state of Michigan.
Is this how the public should handle cases of sexual assault that are prosecuted in the court of public opinion? Is the appropriate punishment, absent any objective confirmation of what went on beyond a reasonable doubt, that Chariton should never work another day in his life for a progressive media organization?
Let’s change the crime and imagine Chariton was accused of stealing property from Hammond. Out of the four people in the room, three people, including the accused, maintain Chariton never stole anything. Hammond, the accuser, has a vivid account of what happened that involves stealing. The two other people create some level of doubt about what transpired. Do we pronounce Chariton guilty of stealing without absolute certainty that property was stolen?
The alleged incident with Chariton occurred at a hotel in Flint, Michigan, in May. There were four people in the hotel room—Chariton, Hammond, Chelsea Lyons, one of Chariton’s close friends and an activist, and Ty Bayliss, a cameraman who worked with Chariton on his reports for the Young Turks. Chariton, Lyons, and Hammond have each put forward accounts of what happened in the hotel room.
Chariton’s account was published on Medium hours before Chiakulas’ piece went up on Huffington Post. He did not name anyone involved and claimed Lyons and Hammond were kissing each other in the hot tub in his room. He left and went to bed.
“Some time after that, the man in the group [Bayliss] woke me up to show that said woman had come to my bed with the other woman. They were having oral sex with one another, and I was asked to participate,” Chariton wrote. “I have written statements from the other two people in the room confirming that they heard me ask the woman receiving oral sex [Hammond] if she was okay and if I could approach her intimately—and most importantly, heard her consent.”
Chariton asserted nobody was drunk, even though they had a few beers.
“Eventually we paired off, and I was directly intimate with this woman [Hammond],” Chariton added. “During foreplay, she made a sound that made me question whether she was still happy with what was going on. I stopped immediately, and she confessed that she had grown distressed about the impact of our intimacy on her marriage. I immediately ended the intimacy and requested that we sit up and talk.”
“We did not have sexual penetration. We spent the next few hours talking, first in the hotel room and then moving to the lobby where we remained, talking and engaging in nonsexual affection, into the morning. She was sitting on my lap with her arm wrapped around me for much of this period as we talked. Between 5–6 am, we both went to sleep and I woke up soon after to get ready to head to the airport and fly home.”
In the Huffington Post story that followed, Hammond said Chariton was in his boxers. Lyons was naked. She was “too drunk to care.” Bayliss brought alcohol to the room, which they “consumed.” Chariton left for bed. Bayliss and Lyons were “making out” so she went to bed.
“The only bed for her was the one Chariton was sleeping in,” Hammond suggested. Chariton was “snoring loudly.” She laid down, and soon after, Lyons was allegedly on top of her, trying to kiss her. “I tried turning over and pushing her off and she just pulled me back.” Bayliss was allegedly there and tried to kiss her. She did not yell at them to stop, but her face said, “No.”
She further alleges Lyons woke up Chariton and said, “She’s beautiful, enjoy her.” Chariton asked, “Are you sure?” He did not “take his dick out, but “pretty much everything else he could do, he did.”
According to Hammond, she kicked him off and then Chariton apologized. She said he told her to get dressed, and they went out into the hotel lobby.
Hammond gave a much more detailed account on the “Tim Black At Night” show. However, it came a day after Lyons offered her account of what happened.
All of them were in the hot tub in Chariton’s room, according to Lyons. They were drinking. Hammond started kissing her. They were having a good time. “There was no misconduct.”
Chariton went and laid down in bed, and Hammond went into the bathroom for a “long time, maybe 30 minutes.” She stayed with Bayliss in the hot tub.
“She comes back and out, and she doesn’t have her bikini on anymore. She’s ready to go or whatever,” Lyons alleged. “I get out. Like she and I are kissing again. We end up engaging in oral sex again. All of this is fine. And like Ty is kissing her. I’m kissing Ty. All of this is okay. Jordan is still like asleep on the bed. And then Carly asks Ty to wake up Jordan. Ty goes and wakes up Jordan.”
Lyons continued, “Jordan asks her if it’s okay if he kisses her because like you know he wants to join. It’s a fun night. Everybody’s having fun. There’s nothing wrong with that. She says that he can. So they’re kissing and then I’m kissing Ty and then eventually Jordan [is] going down on Carly on the bed, and she’s making noises. She playing with his hair. They’re having a good time. So, me and Ty are kind of like they’re having fun. We’ll leave. We’ll go do our own thing in the other room.”
Both Bayliss and Lyons left for at least a half hour. When they were finished, Lyons found Chariton and Hammond in the room talking. She was surprised they were talking, and then they went out to the hotel lobby.
Lyons offered this account during an interview that was posted to Facebook Live on November 18.
On November 21, Hammond appeared on the “Tim Black At Night” show for an interview that lasted around two and a half hours.
In this more detailed version, Hammond talked about being in the hot tub. She was consensually kissing Lyons, “I was really drunk at the time. I don’t remember what we were talking about. I remember things happening. I remember what’s burned into my brain. But at that point in time, it was like a moment where it’s like I’m going to kiss this person,” and, “Then it stopped and then people were talking again and there was still drinking going on.”
The narrative is somewhat different than the Huffington Post story. She didn’t tell Black that Chariton was in the only bed, where she could sleep. She said she got out of the hot tub. She does not think she had the top of her bikini on anymore. Jordan was “dead asleep,” and she climbed into bed with him.
“I take my swimsuit bottoms off, and I’m naked when I get into the bed, and Jordan is just like laid down on top of the covers and I’ve made sure to like pull the covers over myself. I’m explaining it rationally to you now but my brain right then was not the most rational thing in the world,” Hammond stated.
According to Hammond, she passed out. But she doesn’t know how long she passed out. She paused and then added, “So Chelsea jumps on top of me in the bed, and she tears off the covers. She’s very aggressive, and she’s on her knees on top of me. And she grabs my arms and starts kissing me and I wake up to that.”
“My frame of mind at the time is I had been drinking heavily, and it was that sort of drunk where you don’t really know what the present is,” Hammond added.
The following was not in the Huffington Post story. She essentially alleged Lyons violated her by grabbing her wrists and putting them over her head and then went down and performed oral sex on her. She said her eyes were closed tight, and she attempted to close her legs around her so Lyons would stop. But she “couldn’t fight back.” (Hammond told Shadowproof over email, “I do believe that what Chelsea did constitutes as rape.”)
Next, Bayliss got on top of Hammond. She alleged he had an erection and feared what would happen. She managed to drag her hands over her face and cover up her breasts, and that led Bayliss to back off.
“Jordan [was] still asleep, like he’s fucking snoring when this is going on. So at that time, Chelsea like starts yelling at Jordan to wake up,” according to Hammond.
Similarly, in the detailed account, Hammond heard Lyons allegedly say, “She’s beautiful, enjoy her,” and Chariton said, “Are you sure?”
There was no sexual penetration, but Hammond claimed Chariton allegedly put his fingers inside her and performed oral sex. “He tried to kiss me everywhere. He tried to pull my hands apart from my face.”
“It was moments when my brain felt. My conscious was sort of like a tide and it would come in and come out and come in and come out. I don’t even know if I actually was like falling asleep or passing out and then waking up,” Hammond said.
Hammond didn’t say that she made a sound to indicate distress, but she recalled kicking Chariton. She turned to her side, curled up in a ball, and claims she cried. He stopped and asked if she was okay. She suggested she fell asleep and then woke up a bit later. Shortly after, they went out into the lobby.
The morning after, Hammond sent the following text to Chariton: “Thanks for sacrificing sleep to talk to me last night. I really appreciate it.” As Chariton recalled, she sat in his lap and kissed him. They talked about her husband.
According to Hammond, it wasn’t only the alcohol that led to what happened in the hotel room. She said she was in a “pressured situation” with her boss [Chariton], a coworker [Bayliss], and a person who worked with her boss [Lyons].” She contends Chariton used his position to have sex with her, and in the hotel lobby, he showered her with compliments to justify what happened.
“It was not great judgment calls that were going on. I didn’t think of the next thing, like this could happen, this could happen, this could happen,” Hammond stated. “I trusted the people in the room at the time because Jordan had never made overt sexual advances toward me before this. He had made comments that made me somewhat uncomfortable. But he knew I was married. He met my husband actually before that happened.”
“Before that, I don’t ever remember him touching me inappropriately, where it would cause me alarm,” Hammond added.
But according to Lyons, Hammond and Chariton “had a very flirtatious relationship for a long time.” And, “There wasn’t anything wrong with. It was cute innocent flirting. Everybody does it.”
Chariton maintains Hammond changed her attitude toward what happened in the hotel room after returning home from her trip to New York. She no longer wanted to speak to him. He learned she “had changed her depiction of events” and was “telling friends that she was starting to remember things differently.”
“Not wanting to disrupt any reconciliation she might be trying to affect with her husband, I let it go—something I deeply regret,” Chariton suggested. “My instinct was to approach her because I was horrified if a woman thought I’d taken advantage of her, but the friend that told me about her allegation talked me out of it for fear that the woman would be upset she told me. Because I had sought and received her affirmative consent at every opportunity, it never occurred to me that the situation could take a dark turn.”
According to Chariton, he was never contacted by Chiakulas to provide a statement for the story that was published at Huffington Post.
“When you look at serious journalistic outfits that are writing and breaking news on sexual assault, there’s no visible screen shots of, for example, the reporters who broke the news on Charlie Rose, as an example, in private group chats saying let’s take him down and let’s add to the list. And things like that,” Chariton stated. “The goal wasn’t journalism. It was to do damage.”
Chiakulas defended the process and said Chariton published his post to Medium. That preempted the effort to have a story placed with “neutral publication” that could perhaps even run their own investigation. He also insists he no longer had to contact Chariton because his account was public.
Chariton questioned the stock photo of him that was added to the story. It showed a woman, a Standing Rock water protector, standing with him. He called this unfortunate and worried it gave off the impression he may have committed sexual misconduct against her. She also did not deserve to have her image brought into this situation.
The Huffington Post story was later taken down by the management of the website because it was submitted as part of the website’s open system. The organization could not fact-check and confirm the allegations in the piece, which appears to be standard for pieces from contributors.
Only one person has accused Chariton of rape, yet the story published gave off the impression that several individuals were violated by him. A note appeared at the bottom of the post that read, “This story will be updated as more associates of Chariton come forward, as several are planning to do.”
Four to five days later, not a single additional accuser has yet to come forward. In fact, the Facebook chat messages show Chiakulas and Hammond expressing frustration that they only had one accuser. So who are these potential accusers?
Chiakulas suggested there was a woman who said Jordan has “lewd photographs of her from their time together and will use them to embarrass her if she comes forward.” That woman, Graceanne Parks, who worked for Chariton at TATM, said Chiakulas was referring to her and vehemently denies this claim.
“I said that in a group chat Christian and others were in plotting to ‘take Jordan down.’ I knew the allegations weren’t true, and I wanted to help [Chariton] so I played along,” Parks stated on Facebook on November 17.
“During my time at Truth Against the Machine,” Parks added, “I became upset at Jordan occasionally, but it never involved sexual harassment or assault. In fact, I never met Jordan until three days ago. The author’s claims are false and he needs to issue a correction immediately.”
Asked about whether any additional people planned to come forward with allegations, Chiakulas replied, “I have heard rumors of at least six accusers of sexual abuse/harassment/assault from different sources. I do not know their names and am not sure how credible the information is.” And, later, he indicated he became aware of some since Carly came forward publicly.
“I myself am suspicious about some of the people I’ve heard this from (none of them related in any way to Carly),” Chiakulas shared.
Chariton wanted to make it clear that he does not think his case should distract from the “courageous women coming out right now” with accusations against men, many of them in powerful positions in news, entertainment, and politics. “What happened with me does not negate the women that are coming forward.
Chariton, who maintains he did nothing wrong, continued, “I think that in general we need to be careful about being found guilty by tweet. Because it’s borderline unrecoverable, career-wise.”
“How do you have a career after that? Even after the facts show you’re correct, headlines of multiple accusers that are inaccurate, that’s out there. We need to be careful about guilt by tweet. We need to not have a conclusion and then search for facts but search for facts then reach a conclusion.”
There is no way to settle this once and for all because none of us were in the room when the alleged event happened.
That the truth seems far from settled, yet Chariton was fired and may never work for a reputable news organization ever again, suggests there is much to be done in this society so emotions and crowd justice are not a substitute for due process for both the accused and the accuser.
Update — November 25:
On November 22, around the time that this report was published, Cenk Uygur, host and creator of the Young Turks, read a statement on air. Crucially, it included a few details on the nature of the investigation into Chariton.
As it turns out, the Young Turks was unable to talk to all the people involved, including the accusers, because they did not work for the Young Turks. For the longest time, the media organization said it did not know their identities, and in fact, they were a part of Chariton’s project, “Truth Against the Machine” (TATM).
“We assumed what would happen even in the best case for Jordan. And so, I’m not saying that was the scenario. We did not conduct an investigation as to whether as to whether any kind of sexual assault happened. That is for other authorities to deal with. And I’m not saying the best case scenario is a correct one for Jordan. I’m not saying anything about that because we didn’t investigate that.”
To justify firing Chariton, Uygur instead claimed Chariton used Young Turks resources to run his “side project,” TATM. They suggested they had no idea about the scale of the project when Chariton was working for them. Then, Uygur said Chariton engaged in “poor management decisions” by bringing women into hotel rooms and other intimate settings for sex—”clear firing offenses.”
The report was updated to reflect the nature of the investigation by the Young Turks and the fact that the media company said it completed an investigation.