UC Regent Norman Pattiz recorded asking to touch breasts of colleague

Michael Drummond/File
UC Regent Norman Pattiz, right, can be heard asking a colleague if he can hold her breasts in a recently released audio recording.

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Update 11/3/16: This article has been updated to reflect additional information from Heather McDonald, Emilia Dantes and UC Board of Regents chair Monica Lozano.

As the university aims to address sexual harassment cases systemwide, longtime UC Regent Norman Pattiz was recorded asking a female colleague whether he could hold her breasts.

Pattiz, 73, a radio mogul and member of the UC Board of Regents since 2001, directed his comments to television writer Heather McDonald as she was recording a commercial for a memory-foam bra in Pattiz’s PodcastOne studio, as previously reported by the Los Angeles Times.

In the recording from May, aired last week on McDonald’s “Juicy Scoop” podcast, Pattiz is heard entering the studio room and complimenting McDonald on recent work. After McDonald finishes a commercial take with Pattiz present, she says, “You’re making me nervous.”

“Wait a minute — can I hold your breasts? Would that help?” Pattiz says, eliciting multiple responses of “no” from McDonald.

He then says, “These are memory foam,” referring to his hands.

Pattiz’s remarks were not the first incident that made McDonald feel uncomfortable since she began working at PodcastOne last July, she said in an interview with The Daily Californian. McDonald added that he frequently remarked on her appearance and, at one point, joked about following her into a bathroom.

Several women who have worked with Pattiz have said remarks he has made about women’s bodies and their appearance in the workplace sometimes made them feel uncomfortable.

Emilia Dantes, a friend of one of Pattiz’s former employees Ji Min Park, stated that Park had often feared going to work as she worried that Pattiz would potentially assault or harass her.

“She was miserable and felt sick to her stomach every day. Wondering, is he going to come upstairs today? What will he say? Is this the day he grabs me or touches me?” Dantes said in an email.

According to McDonald, Pattiz often carried a gun on him, as he is a reserve deputy in the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, and had the gun in his possession at the time that he made the comments toward McDonald. Dantes added that Park had stated that Pattiz would occasionally pull out his gun and point it at others, as well as frequently reference his position as a sheriff.

Pattiz founded Westwood One, the country’s largest radio network, in 1976 and was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame, among other accolades. He serves on a number of UC Board of Regents committees, including the National Laboratories Subcommittee, which he chairs, and the Academic and Student Affairs Committee.

“There is no excuse for any such comments or making anyone feel uncomfortable,” Pattiz told the LA Times on Tuesday. “If I did that, I sincerely apologize, and it will be a valuable learning experience.”

After McDonald left PodcastOne as a result of Pattiz’s comments, she stated that Pattiz told her she would be unable to continue her podcast on another server and attempted to prevent her from continuing the podcast through other means. For a time, McDonald ran the “Juicy Scoop” from home, hosted on a server through friend Ray Hernandez, which, according to McDonald, led Pattiz to threaten Hernandez legally.

McDonald later received an offer from audio media network Wondery to host her podcast, after which she said Pattiz demanded to see the network’s contract and have the opportunity to match its offer. Upon reviewing the contract, he chose not to match the offer and McDonald accepted Wondery’s contract, where her podcast is currently hosted.

“It’s not like I could’ve just left that day and done my podcast somewhere else,” McDonald said. “I had to go through all these steps.”

According to McDonald, fear of retaliation has kept many victims silent and she was initially encouraged by friends and colleagues to keep the situation private.

“It consumes you when there’s threats of lawsuits … and you don’t have the money to fight something like that,” she said.

UC President Janet Napolitano announced sweeping changes to UC policy in March after widespread criticism of sanctions against former UC Berkeley School of Law dean Sujit Choudhry, who was found in violation of UC sexual misconduct policy by campus investigators the previous year. Since 2011, 19 campus employees have been found guilty of violating UC sexual harassment policy in the past seven years.

“We take the allegations of sexual harassment against Regent Norman Pattiz very seriously and find his comments as reported to be inappropriate and highly offensive,” said chair of the Board of Regents Monica Lozano in an email statement released Thursday.

Lozano added that current UC Board of Regents policies do not address the actions of members outside of university business but that she would work to introduce new policies that solve this.

“We cannot tolerate behavior that violates the University’s Statement of Ethical Values,” Lozano said in the email.

Pattiz was reappointed by Gov. Jerry Brown to his current term, which will expire in 2026.

Since going public with her story, McDonald said she has received an influx of emails from women who have had similar experiences with men in their workplaces and have been inspired by McDonald coming forward.

“I want to commend younger women (who speak up). … It’s going to be your generation that stops this,” McDonald said. “Younger men are going to understand that their words have lasting effect.”

Contact Alexander Barreira and Sydney Fix at [email protected].