The Furor over Marc Smirnoff's Ouster from The Oxford American

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When word first hit that Marc Smirnoff had been fired from his Southern literary magazine The Oxford American, frankly, I assumed it was either financial woes or some kind of thin-skinned meltdown like the one he had on Tiny Cat Pants back in '08 that finally cost him his job.

But no. According to The New York Times, Smirnoff was fired over sexual harassment allegations:

The next morning he berated the female intern in front of the other staff members when she refused to help clean up a mess in the kitchen. Then, after insisting that the intern ride back to Conway with him, he asked her if she wanted to hold hands. She declined, he said, saying she’d rather “hold hands with a dead dog.” Still, he told her he wanted to take her to his favorite make-out spot.

Mr. Smirnoff’s account matched the description the intern provided the magazine’s board. The intern said she was repeatedly humiliated, sexually harassed and intimidated by Mr. Smirnoff on that occasion and others, according to a written statement from her that was obtained by The New York Times.

This is a strange kind of defense, where you concede that what your accuser says is the truth, concede she indeed told you that she'd rather "hold hands with a dead dog" than you, and yet still claim that "It was acceptable to her in that moment."

Smirnoff and his co-worker/girlfriend, who was also fired, put up a website in which they tell their side of the story. It also is a strange document, in which they appear to concede they did, are doing, or would like to do much of what their enemies accuse them of, as if by conceding their enemies' points, they will be vindicated from their claims.

Take, for instance, the email Smirnoff posts from Stuart Jackson, a lawyer hired by the OA board. In it, Jackson states, "During the meetings yesterday, you were directed that the investigation was to remain confidential and reminded that retaliation is strictly prohibited and unlawful. While we understand your anger over the allegations made against you, it's clear under the law that you cannot retaliate against your accusers."

Is Jackson right to be concerned about Smirnoff retaliating against his accusers? Well, right there, on the website that is supposed to be Smirnoff's self-defense, he says, "The fired intern is not a minor and we therefore have the right to name her. We have decided not to do that yet. We also reserve the right to file a complaint about her behavior to the out-of-state university that sent her to us."

Sure, nothing retaliatory about threatening to file a complaint against the woman who accused you of sexual harassment.

Anyway, the whole thing is strange and sad. Smirnoff has a reputation for being difficult, but The Oxford American is a brilliant publication, full of writers and writing I love. The music issue is something to look forward to. And it's sad to see it in the news under these circumstances and not for how great it is.

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