University of California Regent Norman J. Pattiz is known for his outgoing manner and jovial jibes — but in this time of heightened awareness about inappropriate conduct, he's learning that some of what's funny to him is sexually offensive to others.
Pattiz is chairman of the Courtside Entertainment Group, which produces radio shows and podcasts. He recently apologized after a woman said that, when she was taping a bra commercial at his PodcastOne studio, he asked if he could hold her breasts.
Heather McDonald aired an audiotape of his comments on her "Juicy Scoop" podcast last week. She said she was inspired to speak out by other women who came forward to describe their experiences with Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and former Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes. The Los Angeles comedian, who left PodcastOne shortly after the incident, said she did not accept Pattiz's apology or excuse that he was trying to be funny.
"Sexual harassment is not a joke," she said in an interview.
Several other former employees and independent contractors of PodcastOne also say that Pattiz's remarks about women's bodies or looks sometimes made them uncomfortable. One woman, 23-year-old Ji Min Park, said she left the company in August after a year in large part because of too many sexually inappropriate comments.
Pattiz, 73, told The Times he "deeply regrets" the comments to McDonald and vowed not to repeat such behavior.
"There is no excuse for any such comments or making anyone feel uncomfortable," he said Tuesday. "If I did that, I sincerely apologize, and it will be a valuable learning experience."
"I can assure you that you can teach an old dog new tricks," he said, committing to work to bridge any generation gap.
UC officials declined to comment about Pattiz's behavior. The university's definition of sexual harassment includes unwelcome sexual jokes or comments about a person's body or appearance.
In recent years, UC President Janet Napolitano and the Board of Regents have led the 10-campus system to take a strong stand against sexual harassment, with stricter requirements for reporting misconduct, expanded education and training and increased services for victims.
Pattiz was first appointed as a regent by Gov. Gray Davis in 2001. In 2014, he was reappointed to a 12-year term by Gov. Jerry Brown.
The prominent broadcast media entrepreneur founded Westwood One Inc., the nation's largest radio network, four decades ago. In 2013, he started PodcastOne, a Beverly Hills network that hosts more than 200 podcasts.
Park said she was initially flattered by Pattiz's compliments about her looks but became increasingly uncomfortable with them. Some months ago, she said, he told her she was the "hottest Asian" he'd ever seen and said, "If I wasn't married, I'd be chasing you down a hallway right now." She said she put her hands over her ears, said "Oh, my God," and walked away, and that Pattiz subsequently apologized.
At other times, Park said, Pattiz didn't seem to understand that his remarks were offensive. He once joked that if he left his wife for her, she could have her name on a recording studio, she said.
He also told her in front of others that she looked like a schoolgirl and then said he'd watched "too many videos" featuring schoolgirls. She and others assumed he was talking about porn.
"Everyone was stunned, and I walked away," Park said.
A current employee, who asked to remain anonymous to avoid retaliation, corroborated her account.
Raymond Hernandez, who worked as a producer at PodcastOne for two years before he was laid off in July, said he frequently witnessed Pattiz making comments about women's breasts and bodies. He said he was shocked when Pattiz walked up to employees several months ago and asked if anyone wanted to see revealing photos of a PodcastOne female executive on his phone. The executive did not respond to requests for comment, but two current employees who asked not to be identified to avoid retaliation corroborated the story.
Pattiz made remarks to at least two pregnant podcasters about the size of their breasts, noting they had gotten bigger during pregnancies, Hernandez said. Park witnessed one of the incidents, as did a current employee who asked for anonymity to avoid retaliation.
The other podcaster confirmed the remarks made to her but said she did not want to be identified because she did not feel strongly that Pattiz had wronged her. But she said she was uncomfortable with such remarks and wanted men to understand that they are inappropriate.
Pattiz, when asked to respond to the particular incidents, said he would not go beyond his general apology. He said he could not respond meaningfully to information coming from anonymous sources but that he would take any concerns to heart.
His comments to McDonald first were made public in her Oct. 27 podcast on sexual harassment. She told listeners that in May she was taping a commercial for a memory foam bra when Pattiz entered the recording room. He unnerved her, she said, and she kept flubbing her lines because he had made previous comments about her appearance.
This time, he said, "Can I hold your breasts? Would that help?" according to McDonald's audio recording. "These are memory foam," he said of his hands.
Shortly after the podcast aired, Pattiz apologized to McDonald.
Her show, she said, prompted many emails and online posts from other women sharing stories of harassment.
"You think it doesn't happen," McDonald said, "but it happens all the time."
MORE EDUCATION NEWS