A Brief FAQ About The Current Cracked Mess

(This FAQ exists for the purpose of providing a centralized source of information. I am no longer professionally connected to Cracked. If I am annoyingly vague about something here, it?s because I would rather hold back and be annoyingly vague than spread false information. This is limited to what I know, and I do not claim that it?s comprehensive.)

What happened with John Cheese?

This Friday, Talia Jane published a Medium article detailing the fact that she had been harassed by John Cheese in 2014. Since then, many other people have come forward with similar stories. Some of these were other writers for the site, others were fans John had contacted. You can find the full story over on Talia?s page; she?s doing a better job than I could do of reporting everything.

Was John Cheese?s serial sexual harassment covered up by the people at Cracked?

Talia reported the harassment in 2014. Cracked?s parent company, Demand Media, responded by removing John Cheese from the position he held, which was one where he had a lot of contact with female writers, and reassigning him. He also deleted his Twitter at the time. I believe John Cheese told them that it was an isolated incident, and they believed him.

The extent of his harassment only really became apparent over the weekend, when other women started contacting Talia after she shared her story publicly. As far as I know no one else at Cracked had made a report about being harassed by John before then (although I will issue a correction if I?m wrong about this).

Who handled John Cheese?s reassignment?

Demand Media?s HR department.

Should they have done better?

Yes. Obviously. Keep in mind though that 1) they apparently did not know that this was a pattern of behavior for him and 2) there were some legal issues that I am not privy to (literally all I know is ?there were legal issues?).

Did (INSERT WELL-KNOWN CRACKED PERSON?S NAME HERE) have anything to do with this?

Odds are, no. Websites like Cracked are usually run in a similar way to any other office: people in one department don?t control or know the details of an issue like this in another department, and HR stuff is handled by HR.

There?s also a bit of irony here in that the most visible and recognizable faces related to the Cracked website are likely the ones least connected with this, because they worked in a completely different area (video) than John Cheese did (articles).

Was John Cheese harassing people at the Cracked offices?

No, because he lived in Illinois and the Cracked headquarters was in Los Angeles. Many of Cracked?s employees telecommuted. If you hear a Cracked person declaring ?Hell, I never even met John Cheese!? they?re not using the Donald Trump Stupid Denial Playbook; they?re probably telling the truth.

What is the deal with JF Sargent?

JF Sargent was accused of abuse and shitty behavior in his personal life. I am not as clear on the timeline of what happened as I am about the John Cheese stuff, and I don?t want to get it wrong, so I can?t provide as many details right now.

Updated with further details: Some coworkers found out about Sargent?s shitty behavior in early 2017, and made an effort to remove him from his position. His bosses were in agreement that he should be removed, but because his behavior was not work-related and there had not been police involvement, he couldn?t be fired for it and they were not allowed to speak on the matter publicly (I believe this has something to do with California employment law, but I?m not sure). He was kept on in a very uncomfortable office environment until Cracked?s parent company (Cracked had been bought out by a new company, E. W. Scripps, by this point) let go most of its workforce in late 2017, Sargent included.

Was he harassing writers at his workplace?

No, his alleged shitty behavior was related to people who did not work for Cracked.

(To be clear: Shitty behavior in one?s personal life is just as serious as shitty workplace behavior. I separate the two just to clear up confusion about what happened)

But I heard he punched a guy.

Nobody punched anybody. Apparently he turned up at a party shortly after he was let go, and was physically removed because he was being a dickhead and nobody wanted him there, but nobody exchanged any blows. This did not happen at work and he was no longer employed by Cracked at the time.

What?s the deal with ?Mack?? Is he yet another harasser?

No. Mack is John Cheese?s real legal first name. John Cheese was a pseudonym. References to Mack are talking about him.

What is this I hear about David Dietle?

David Dietle was a former freelance writer for Cracked (initially this stated that he also worked for the site as a workshop mod; I was wrong about that). After he disappeared from social media for a long time, some other writers Googled him because they were concerned about his safety, and discovered that he is in jail awaiting indictment for charges relating to child pornography. Googling his name will provide further details; they?re pretty horrible.

Oh God, was he harassing people as well?

Unless someone wants to correct me: no. Other writers are particularly shocked by the Dietle news because he came off as completely normal online and never said an inappropriate thing to anyone. (Note that we only knew him online: I don?t think he ever had any real-life contact with anyone connected with Cracked.) I did not know him well myself, but I was aware of his presence on the forum, and he gave off no bad or unusual vibes at all. I guess if child molesters were obvious about being child molesters they wouldn?t get away with it so much.

What did I hear about Jacopo?

He is another writer who was reported to have said creepy things to female writers on the site on several occasions. He was a freelance writer and not an editor, and not in a position of authority over these fellow writers (not that it makes those comments okay). I don?t know enough further details to speak more on this confidently. (I stopped talking to him early on at Cracked and blocked him on social media, but only because I just didn?t like him.)

Yikes. What are the odds of all these perverts being connected to one site?

Cracked had dozens of employees and literally hundreds of freelance writers working for them. I don?t know if statistically this amount is unusual or not. One is too many, of course.

Did you find it a creepy place to work for?

Not at all. My experiences as a female writer were almost all positive, both online and in person. (I mentioned my own negative experience with John Cheese here on Twitter; I can answer further questions about it there, but I don?t think there?s room for that in this FAQ.) Obviously though, I can only speak for myself.

Is Talia Jane trustworthy?

She is among the most trustworthy people I know. I have known her for years, and the only time I could see her lying is if there were Nazis knocking at the door and she had Anne Frank in the attic. Go give her a job.

What?s your connection to all this?

I worked for Cracked for many years as a writer and columnist. I am no longer working for them and they are not paying me to write this. I am also unemployed, but Talia needs a job more than I do.

I wanted to put together a primer for those checking into events for the first time. I will try to update where I can, but otherwise I may not have time to investigate new allegations beyond this. I will not always have a position on everything new that comes to light (assuming it does), since I might not have been involved in any events brought forth. I will of course correct any misinformation in the above pointed out to me. I am on Twitter.


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