BuzzFeed Staffer Accuses 'Mad Men' Actor of Sexual Harassment During Interview
Paul Johansson's lawyer says the story is fabricated.
In an article published on Monday night, BuzzFeed staffer Susan Cheng accused One Tree Hill and Mad Men actor Paul Johansson of sexually harassing her during an interview.
Cheng said while making small talk before an interview, Johansson talked to a co-worker of hers about tennis, saying, "My serve is pretty strong. I’ll serve the ball right down your throat.” That comment was not captured on camera, Cheng wrote, but while Johansson filmed a segment for BuzzFeed he allegedly told the ladies, "I’m not shy,” and “I’m sweating like a rapist,” as he wiped sweat off his forehead under the fluorescent lights. Cheng wrote that these comments are filmed on camera. Cheng also claims Johansson put his arm around her while she showed him how to create GIFs on her computer.
Johansson played Ferg Donnelly on Mad Men, a character who sexually harassed Joan Harris' character on the series. His interview with BuzzFeed involved filming GIFs about how to deal with jerks at work for an article published on May 4. Cheng wrote in the Monday article that at first she forced herself to laugh at Johansson's jokes.
"After all, it was just the culmination of about three comments from Johansson that would’ve been inappropriate in an ad agency in the early 1970s, like the one his misogynistic character works at on Mad Men," she wrote in the article. "But this is hardly 1970. It’s 2015, and we work at BuzzFeed — far from the time or place where I would’ve expected his remarks."
Cheng also wrote that while she was showing him the office space, Johansson asked her if she ever takes people and makes out with them in meeting rooms. She claimed Johansson had his hand on her back while he asked her this.
Cheng claimed that weeks after the interview she emailed Johansson's publicist requesting to speak to the actor about Johansson's actions. She wrote she received a letter from Johansson's lawyer in response, and published an excerpt at the end of her article.
Johansson's lawyer Andrew B. Brettler told BuzzFeed in response to a query that "there is nothing sexual or inappropriate" about Johansson's tennis ball statement. He said Johansson's "sweating like a rapist" comment was "purposely taken out of context" and that Johansson never touched Cheng "in an inappropriate or sexual manner." Brettler claims the story is fabricated "in an effort to attract readers."
"Mr. Johansson was discussing his acting career and imitating the types of brute characters he has portrayed on television," the letter on BuzzFeed's site states. "For Ms. Cheng to impute to Mr. Johansson the negative traits of the characters he has played on TV is reckless and defamatory on its face."
THR has reached out to Johansson's rep for comment.