A veteran female journalist has claimed that a senior figure in national television exposed himself to her during a meeting at his home, an incident she said she was making public to back up a newscaster who also accused the man of inappropriate behavior.
Neri Livneh, who writes for the Haaretz daily, penned an article in which she described an encounter with Alex Gilady, president of the Keshet Broadcasting group, that happened 18 years ago. In addition to leading Keshet, one of the longtime concessionaires in the hugely popular Channel 2, Gilady, a former basketball and soccer player, is Israel’s representative on the International Olympic Committee.
Livneh said she chose to speak up about the incident in support of Channel 10 anchor Oshrat Kotler, who last week told viewers she received an “indecent proposal” 25 years ago from Gilady, when he was CEO of Keshet.
Gilady had initially contacted her with an offer to present a morning show, Kotler said. After rebuffing his entreaties to take her to dinner and telling him she was married, he said, “What does that have to do with it? Don’t you know how you move up in Hollywood?”
Kotler, who said she did not consider the incident with Giladi harassment but insisted it was still “indecent,” said she did not speak up earlier because she was worried about the possible impact the revelation would have on her career.
In an interview with Channel 10 on Monday, Livneh recalled that Gilady, then 56, contacted her in 1999 when she was 45 and asked her to meet with him over an important proposal he had for her.
Livneh said her expectations were high that Gilady was going to offer her a position hosting a television show. During the course of the evening Gilady took her out for coffee and then dinner, all the while introducing her to socialites and his acquaintances from the top echelons of Israeli media whom they met along the way. At some point, Gilady asked her to accompany him to his private villa, saying he wanted to watch a television show that was due to be broadcast.
She agreed. When they arrived, she said, he went upstairs and then returned wearing a robe over his shirt and tie but without his pants on.
According to Livneh, Gilady then opened the robe, exposing his penis, and told her to “talk to it.”
It was, she told Channel 10, “what looked to him like a microphone, but didn’t look like a microphone to me, and certainly it wasn’t the microphone I was hoping for.”
She immediately told him to cover himself up and demanded that he order her a cab to take her home. Instead, he called his private driver. During the ride from the villa, Livneh said, the driver turned to her and noted that she was returning home sooner than he expected, as “it usually takes a lot longer.”
The driver’s comment, she assessed, indicated to her that Gilady’s behavior was habitual.
Livneh noted that she didn’t feel especially hurt by what happened but that she has nevertheless speaking up to show her support for Kotler.
“I won’t agree to see Oshrat Kotler being portrayed as a liar,” she said, implying that Gilady was trying to present Kotler as untruthful by nitpicking over Gilady’s role at Keshet at the time.
After Livneh published her story on Sunday, Gilady responded to Haaretz in a statement saying her claims were “mostly true” but that he was within his rights.
“What adults do in their home, their private homes, within the framework of personal relationships is their private business,” he said.
Regarding Kotler’s claims, Giladi said that in 1994-1995 Keshet did not have a morning show. He also denied having given her an audition and said he did not recall having spoken to her in the manner that she alleged.
Livneh dismissed Gilady’s statement as a “response formulated by a public relations person. Keshet’s silence over Kotler’s story annoyed me, and I don’t doubt that it is true.”
While conceding that people can indeed do as they please in the privacy of their own homes, she added that there had to be prior consent.
“You don’t try first and then check if the other agrees,” Livneh said.
Drorit Wertheim, chair of the Keshet board of directors, said in statement Monday that “the testimonies by reporters about apparently improper behavior attributed to Alex Gilady are saddening and very painful. Regardless of the details of the cases themselves, the circumstances and the passage of time, I wish to offer support to anyone who feels hurt or humiliated as a result of improper and unacceptable conduct. For those of us who were the victims of sexual harassment, whether in deed or words, time offers no solace.
“I will continue to do whatever I can so that together with Keshet’s management we can provide a secure and protected work environment to anyone who works with us,” Wertheim added, noting that she intended to bring the matter up with Gilady as soon as possible.
Upping the pressure on Keshet later Monday, journalist Hadas Shteif tweeted an email apparently sent in April 2010 to the entire Keshet staff by director Yoram Zak, who was editor of the local version of the popular reality show “Big Brother” in 2008-2017.
In the email, Zak discussed his erection.
The mail opened with a greeting: “To all the seductive Keshet girls, the naughty girls of Mako (Keshet’s website), the easy girls from (Channel) Beep and Channel 24 — in short, all of the girls in the building and the boys too.”
Zak then described waking up with an erection and implied that he pleasured himself, first while still in bed and then in the shower.
“True, this mail is old, from seven years ago,” Shteif wrote. “But it shows a lot… and I have more.”
It wouldn’t be the only time Zak’s sexually charged comments have generated headlines.
In February 2011, as director of “Big Brother,” he made inappropriate comments that were inadvertently broadcast on the live TV feed of the show. Speaking to contestant Dana Ron, Zak said, “Good evening, Dana. You’ve got half a minute to address the viewers at home and convince them why you’re the one who wants me to play with my willy between your breasts.”
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.