Pulitzer Prize Chairman Steps Down Amid Sexual Misconduct Allegations

Writer Zinzi Clemmons accused Junot Diaz of forcibly kissing her when she was a grad student. An investigation is ongoing into the allegations.



The rise of the #MeToo movement has seen many powerful men held accountable for sexual harassment and abuse of power. Claims against men, important, powerful men, have rocked the entertainment world, and the publishing industry is no exception.

Pulitzer Prize winner and acclaimed author Junot Diaz stepped down as the chairman of the Pulitzer Prize board amid sexual abuse allegations from fellow writers.

In a statement, the board said Diaz will relinquish his role as the chairman but will remain a member of the board. The award-winning author agreed to fully cooperate with the ongoing investigation against him.

“The Pulitzer Prize Board has authorized an independent review of allegations of misconduct against one of its members,” the group said in a statement. “Mr. Díaz said he welcomed the review and would cooperate fully with it.”

The investigation against Diaz commenced after writer Zinzi Clemmons accused him of sexually harassing her amid a stunned Sydney Writers’ Festival crowd in Australia. She later took to Twitter to share her harrowing experience with Diaz and accused him of forcibly kissing her when she was graduate student.



After Clemmons, allegations against Diaz started pouring in, with women accusing him of misogyny and inappropriate behavior.

A short-story author Carmen Maria Machado claimed Diaz had become unusually angry with her when she criticized the relationship of one of her male characters with women.



Diaz published an essay in the New Yorker last month where he shared his own harrowing experience of sexual abuse and how he was raped as a child. He also recounted how the abuse he faced made him violent and culminated in a troubled relationship with women.

Clemmons believes the essay was an attempt to preempt accusations that he knew were likely coming.


Diaz’s statement amid sexual misconduct accusations did not specifically address a particular incident but he said that he “took responsibility for his past.”

“That is the reason I made the decision to tell the truth of my rape and its damaging aftermath. This conversation is important and must continue. I am listening to and learning from women’s stories in this essential and overdue cultural movement. We must continue to teach all men about consent and boundaries,” he said.

Diaz is also a professor at MIT, which has also reportedly opened an investigation against him.

Diaz won a Pulitzer Prize in 2008 in the fiction category for “The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao.” The acclaimed writer will be replaced on the board by the previous chairman, Eugene Robinson, on an interim basis.

Thumbnail/Banner Credits: Photo by Andrew Toth/Getty Images for The New Yorker Festival

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