Daniel Handler, author of the famed Series Of Unfortunate Events children’s books, is stepping down as Wesleyan University’s commencement speaker after reports surfaced that he made sexually inappropriate comments to women.
Female authors and librarians accused Handler, who uses the pseudonym “Lemony Snicket,” of making derogatory jokes at their expense, according to the Pacific-Standard.
In one example, Kate Messner said that on a bus taking her, Handler and other authors to a children’s book festival in Rhode Island, he overheard someone else wondering if she was from the Midwest. Handler shouted, “Are you a virgin, too?” Messner said.
She said that later, in a hotel lobby, Handler said, “These children’s book events always turn into orgies!”
Wesleyan’s student newspaper, The Argus, reported on Thursday that Handler, a 1992 alumnus of the Connecticut school, would be replaced by women’s right’s icon Anita Hill as the main speaker at the commencement ceremony.
“Daniel Handler has chosen to withdraw as Wesleyan’s Commencement speaker this May,” university President Michael Roth said in a statement. “We’ve agreed that the focus of the event should be on the Class of 2018, their families and the celebration of graduation. I’m pleased to share that Anita Hill has graciously agreed to deliver the Commencement address.”
Handler publicly apologized in a blog where the accusations came to light, but a representative for Handler did not comment about the Wesleyan ceremony.
Hill is best known for putting an early spotlight on sexual harassment in the workplace during Senate confirmation hearings on Clarence Thomas’ nomination to the Supreme Court. Hill testified that while working for Thomas at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, he made a number of sexually explicit comments to her.
Hill was publicly vilified by several of the politicians questioning her and in some media reports. Thomas was confirmed, and still serves on the court. Allegations have continued to surface, though, accusing Thomas of sexual harassment.
This story has been updated to reflect Handler’s apology.