On November 14th, via social media, Charlyne Yi accused me of sexual harassment. We all know that many victims of actual harassment have come forward. Their stories are important and their voices should be empowered. I hope that those who know me don’t need me to say this: Ms. Yi’s story is false. I deny every accusation made by her.
I cannot speak to her motivation. I can only state that Ms. Yi’s description of our evening is fabricated.
Let me be clear: Ms. Yi asked me out for friendly drinks. I had no expectation we would be discussing any book deal or other business proposal; and, in fact, we did not. We both drank too much and shared deeply personal stories. She even drew in my sketchbook for me as we were leaving the bar (Yes, I have the drawing). After drinking, we went for pizza. Stupidly, I thought I had made a friend.
Because I used some coarse language during the evening—as did she—I ended the night by apologizing. I wanted to make sure that what I said wasn’t received as anything other than platonic. She waved off my apology as unnecessary, walked me to the subway, and hugged me goodbye.
The entire encounter occurred out in public, with plenty of people around, and in view (no doubt) of security cameras. As part of her false narrative, Ms. Yi said she pushed against my alleged advances by “reminding me” of my family. The reality is that I was texting with my wife throughout the entire evening from beginning to end (Yes, I have the many texts). I was star struck, to be sure, but I was in no way trying to flirt with her or entice her into anything.
Days later, she accused me of trying to “manipulate” her to get her in bed. I was not. I would not harass anyone—much less a vocal (and popular) opponent of sexual harassment.
But, I again apologized. In response, Ms. Yi leveraged her celebrity and her significant following across multiple social media platforms in a scorched-earth manner; using words that are defamatory and false. That she called me, among other things, a “manipulative psychopath predator” should have alerted people to the possibility that something was amiss with her story. However, the response was considerable. I was advised not to make a public statement, although I desperately wanted to. I see now that my silence suggested her outlandish story was true.
Any suggestion that I am the person described by Ms. Yi is absurd. Having been emotionally and physically harassed in my youth, I believe all forms of harassment are abhorrent. Throughout my career, I have worked hard to foster an inclusive and supportive environment for my colleagues and the illustration community at large.
That said, as a result of her online campaign against me, an untenable disruption of business arose—making it difficult for me to continue at Penguin. So, it was with a heavy heart that I decided to resign. I now begin the work of restoring any damage done to my name and reputation while I continue to care for and support my wife and three small children.
For those who chose to believe Ms. Yi’s story without hearing my side: It is quite clear that there is no presumption of innocence when facing allegations, even ones as strained and contorted as Ms. Yi’s. That, too, should be a fair dialogue.
My wife, kids, and I now face a new future. Whatever we decide to do, I assure you that I will remain an ardent supporter of the children’s book community. And I will continue to assist and encourage illustrators in every way I can.
I want to express my deepest gratitude to my family, friends, colleagues, and all who are standing by me through this ordeal.