PITTSBURGH, PA. – New allegations have emerged that 69-year-old Michael Fuoco, president of the Pittsburgh NewsGuild since 2010, used his on-and-off-again position as an adjunct journalism professor at both Pitt and Point Park University to regularly prey on his college students.
According to multiple anonymous sources, Fuoco routinely used cocaine, alcohol, and his power as a teacher and mentor to lure students into long-term, regular sexual relationships.
On Tuesday, Payday reported that Fuoco had been accused of sexual misconduct against women journalists at the Post-Gazette. Multiple sources also confirmed allegations that several HR complaints for sexual misconduct were made against Fuoco during his 36-year-tenure at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but no action was taken.
Our investigation also revealed that national NewsGuild-CWA President Jon Schleuss knew of sexual misconduct allegations against Fuoco since December of 2019. But, Schleuss resisted opening a formal investigation into Fuoco and meanwhile continued to promote Fuoco publicly on Twitter and approve the usage of strike funds under Fuoco’s leadership.
Now, new allegations have surfaced that Fuoco used his power as an adjunct professor to prey on young, female students. These new allegations add to the growing call for the national NewsGuild to remove Fuoco as President of the Pittsburgh NewsGuild prior to a looming strike at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, which could happen any day as the union has already voted to authorize a strike.
One of Fuoco’s former Pitt undergraduate students, who wished to remain anonymous, said Fuoco routinely held class meetings at bars and encouraged drinking during class time.
“Early in the semester, he invited me and a few others to stay after class and continue drinking. The other students gradually melted away, and soon it was just the two of us,'” she said. “We continued to drink, and he revealed to me that he had other substances on hand, inviting me to partake. I expressed reservations, and then after drinking significantly more, my reservations fell away, and I did partake.”
“Thus compromised, but consenting, I accompanied him to a hotel room for more substances and for sex. This began a pattern of drink- and substance-fueled sexual encounters in hotel rooms, lasting many months,” she said. “While I was never explicitly coerced, my judgement was significantly and obviously clouded by the alcohol and substances, which he provided.”
Like many women interviewed by Payday Report, she said Fuoco offered to be a mentor and help with her budding journalism career, using his position of power as a well known Post-Gazette reporter to his advantage.
“He was my teacher and responsible for my grade while this was ongoing. I thought, too, that I might professionally benefit from his success as a journalist,” she said. “I learned from conversations in bars with his associates that I was one among many.”
Both Pitt and Point Park, where Fuoco taught, declined to comment for this story.
Since releasing the story of Fuoco’s sexual misconduct, multiple women came forward to Payday Report. They said Fuoco routinely preyed on students or mentees 30 to 40 years younger than him, who were vulnerable and struggling with severe problems in their lives.
“I think that my obvious issues with drinking and drugs made me very easy prey for him,” said a former Pitt student.
“He selected & groomed young women who had struggles that he could exploit,” said another former Point Point University student. “He preyed on women, who had difficult upbringings and used his role as a journalism mentor to play with young women as young as 19.”
Multiple Point Park students of Fuoco’s say that Point Park College students were often his favorite victims.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s old newsroom in downtown Pittsburgh was located just blocks from Point Park College. Both Post-Gazette journalists and Point Park College students tended to hang out at a nearby bar, the River City Inn, which has since closed.
It was there that sources say Fuoco preyed upon undergraduate students and used an extremely “cheesy” pickup line, as one former student recounted.
“His pickup line?, ‘There was a time when I thought that you thought that I was the most interesting man in the world,'” she said. “I laughed hard in his face because it was so dumb I at first thought he had to be kidding. He was fall-down drunk.”
The student says that an inebriated Fuoco then repeated the exact same pickup line on several other students drinking at the Riverside Inn Café.
Many Point Park students say that Fuoco’s aggressive attempts to sleep with his journalism students were often witnessed by many fellow Post-Gazette journalists, who would frequent the River City Inn after work and witness Fuoco offering drugs, such as coke, to women students in attempts to have sex with him.
“He thought he was impressing people by offering drugs. He’d try to get you to go with him somewhere,” said one former Point Park student.
Among women journalism students at both Pitt and Point Park, and many journalists at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, it was an open secret to avoid Fuoco in bars because, they said, of his aggressive sexual coercion with younger women journalists.
Two women interviewed by Payday Report said that they became frustrated in their attempts to write about Fuoco’s sexual misconduct, who had considerable influence in town, as he remained a popular party animal and a celebrated journalism figure for being the prize-winning senior enterprise reporter at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
“I pitched a story about his misconduct to an instructor, who encouraged me to call Mike to ‘make it right,'” said one former Point Park student, who was told in the early 2000s by her instructor that Fuoco had been suicidal, struggling with drug addiction, and not eating. “I called [Fuoco], and he told me I would ruin his life and that it wouldn’t look good for me as a budding reporter to out a veteran like him. I ultimately didn’t write the story.”
For more than two decades, Fuoco’s sexual misconduct has been an “open secret” in the Pittsburgh journalism world with many journalists afraid to touch it, citing Fuoco’s considerable influence among many of the leading names of Pittsburgh journalism, who may be implicated as complicit because they knew about Fuoco’s sexual misconduct, but failed to take action.
Despite having all week to comment, the national NewsGuild has remained silent and yet to issue a comment on Fuoco. Fuoco has also failed to comment.
Schleuss knew about sexual misconduct allegations against Fuoco since December 2019. Since August 5, Schleuss possessed written actionable evidence describing sexual assault but failed to act on it.
Not only did Schleuss fail to investigate Fuoco after receiving an initial complaint, but Schleuss continued to promote Fuoco’s statements on Twitter as recently as Sept. 7. Then, on Sept. 14, the executive council of the NewsGuild, which included Schleuss, voted to approve of a strike at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette under Fuoco’s leadership.
Some worry that the NewsGuild’s rival union, the Writers Guild, could exploit the union’s inaction on sexual misconduct against the NewsGuild whenever they compete against the Writers Guild to represent a new digital media union shop.
Several women journalists in Pittsburgh, who spoke to Payday Report, say it’s well past time that something is done about Fuoco’s well known sexual misconduct, especially with the union at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette heading towards a strike.
“If Mike has any shred of integrity left, he should resign his position and apologize to his fellow union members for doing them zero favors as they fight for a better contract,” said one former Point Park University student of his.
Several women journalists also expressed the hope that the dismissal of Fuoco as the high-profile leader of the Pittsburgh NewsGuild ahead of a looming strike at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette could signal a new era for women in Pittsburgh journalism.
“I think for a long time, women in Pittsburgh media kind of felt like they had to be a good sport about the piggish behavior of some of their male counterparts, or look the other way when they see this stuff,” said one woman. “But post Me-Too, it’s clear those days are over…or at least they should be.”
If you have information about sexual misconduct at the Post-Gazette or in the labor movement, you can contact us anonymously on signal at 412 613 8423 or email [email protected].
For sexual assault survivors looking for assistance, the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800- 656-4673 is run by the Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network, and they offer a list of resources online. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania offers guidance and resources for those in an unsafe and inequitable workplace and who wish to file a complaint with the PHRC or U.S. EEOC.