Ain’t It Cool News founder Harry Knowles is stepping away from the site and handing over operations to his sister, after multiple allegations of sexual harassment and assault, and the resignation of several staffers.
Knowles discussed his resignation and replacement by his sister in a Tweet posted Tuesday night.
Ain't It Cool News, founded Knowles, is a website dedicated to news, rumors and reviews of films, television and comic book projects. Knowles also founded and runs several events and festivals in Austin, Texas, where he is based.
On Saturday, Jasmine Baker told IndieWire that Knowles had assaulted her on two occasions at official Alamo Drafthouse events in Austin. In one case, she said, he “rubbed up against her buttocks and legs in a way that made her feel uncomfortable” and in another incident “put his hand under her shirt.”
Knowles denied the allegations, calling them “100 percent untrue” in a Saturday tweet. However, just before the Indiewire article was published, Austin-based writer Britt Hayes went public with her own accusation that Knowles had sexually harassed her and other women in the community. And other women came forward with accusations after the article was published.
On Monday, longtime Ain’t It Cool News staffers Eric Vespe and Steve Prokopy resigned from the site. “I have known too many women over the years — both inside and outside the film community — who have encountered and survived sexual harassment and/or assault to allow myself to remain involved in an organization where allegations of either are part of the landscape,” wrote Prokopy in a Monday statement.
“Given the recent allegations against Harry Knowles of behavior impossible to defend I can not, in good conscience, continue to contribute to the brand I helped build over the last 20 years,” wrote Vespe.
The allegations against Knowles came less than two weeks after it came out that Alamo Drafthouse CEO Tim League had quietly rehired former Birth.Movies.Death editor-in-chief Devin Faraci, who had resigned from the Drafthouse-owned site in 2016 after he was accused of sexual assault.
Soon after it was reported that following Faraci’s resignation, a second woman had reached out to League to report that Faraci had sexually harassed her. League’s reply to the woman, in which he asked the woman to keep the allegations a secret and implied the relationship with Faraci had been permanently terminated, was harshly criticized, as were his attempts to manage the growing uproar.
At least two people associated with Fantastic Fest quit, and the film “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri,” which deals with sexual assault, pulled out of the festival entirely. League eventually apologized for continuing to employ Faraci, and it was announced that they had permanently parted ways.
League also announced efforts to openly discuss the situation with employees and work to prevent such problems in the future, and also chose not to attend Fantastic Fest. But he was criticized by one former Fantastic Fest programmer as acting purely out of self interest. And making matters worse, Baker said she told League, and his wife and Drafthouse co-founder Karrie League, about the assault by Knowles, but they just suggested she avoid him.
“At that time, they were trying to bring inclusiveness to everyone and also didn’t want to confront a business partner,” she told IndieWire.