Music Publicist Heathcliff Berru Issues Statement Regarding Sexual Harassment Allegations
Amber Coffman, seen here with Dirty Projectors in 2012, says Berru groped her at a cocktail bar in New York.
Photo by Timothy Norris
[This is a developing story. See the end of the article for ongoing updates.]
Heathcliff Berru, the music publicist who has been the subject of multiple accusations of sexual harassment over the past two days, has released his first statement regarding the allegations. In the written statement, which you can read in its entirety below, Berru apologizes to "those who I have offended by my actions" and says he will be checking himself into a drug and alcohol rehab facility.
Berru was first accused of misconduct by musician Amber Coffman, best-known as a vocalist and guitarist for the band Dirty Projectors. In a series of tweets posted late yesterday afternoon and evening, Coffman described how "a very popular music publicist RUBBED my ass and BIT my hair at a bar a couple years ago," then went on to call out Berru by name. A few minutes later, another music publicist, Beth Martinez, tweeted that she had a "similar experience" with Berru. Several other women soon spoke up to either confirm Coffman and Martinez's stories or offer their own, including Best Coast's Bethany Cosentino, who tweeted, "I was too freaked out to ever say anything. Seriously he's not a good person on any level."
Earlier today, Life or Death PR & Management, the company Berru founded in 2008, released a statement saying Berru had resigned from his position as CEO. "Life or Death has a zero tolerance policy for the type of conduct alleged in today’s on-line postings," the statement read in part. "We take these allegations very seriously."
Life or Death's PR clients include D'Angelo, GZA, Cherry Glazerr, Wavves, Health and Odd Future. Wavves appeared to fire Life or Death via Twitter, and Massachusetts indie rock group Speedy Ortiz and D.C.-based soul singer-songwriter Kelela have also confirmed via Twitter that they are no longer with Life or Death. As of this writing, Life or Death's website, wegetpress.com, is down with a "This website is under maintenance" message. [Update: On Wednesday afternoon, Jan. 20, publicist Nick Dierl announced that the remainder of Life or Death's five-person staff would be leaving to start a "new venture ... that bears no ties to Heathcliff Berru or the Life or Death name."]
In the interest of full disclosure, I should note that I have personally known and worked with Berru for many years, both in my role as music editor at L.A. Weekly and in a previous role at Metromix.com.
Here is Berru's full statement (third paragraph added after this article was originally published, at his request):
"There have been several reports about my alleged inappropriate behavior which deserve a response. I am deeply sorry for those who I have offended by my actions and how I have made certain women feel. If I crossed the line of decency or respectfulness in situations when I was drunk and under the influence, there is no excuse of course. To be clear, while my conduct may have been inappropriate, I have never drugged anyone or engaged in that type of behavior. Nevertheless, I do not want to be the type of person who would let drugs or alcohol take command of his life and compromise how he treats people. Yet I have been this person and it’s time to put a stop to all of this. Create a world with one less inappropriate man.
"I have been fighting a losing battle against drugs and alcohol for many years and will be checking into a rehabilitation facility in the hope that I can improve my chances of winning that fight. A year ago, I was confronted by a peer and began to try to clean up and make things right with therapy and with an eye towards quitting the addiction. The shame and sadness feels as strong now as it did then and I am making an immediate change.
"I have already lost my wife, abandoned my family, and destroyed those I love as a result of my shameful, embarrassing, unacceptable behavior. I deeply apologize to them as well. By no means do they deserve to feel the pain of my actions. Please give them the space they deserve. They were the light at the end of a dark tunnel. I was married during some of these years and hid my problems from everyone well. Especially her and her family. Totally inexcusable.
"In no way do these allegations reflect on Life or Death PR, its staff, or anyone associated with the company. These are my issues, not theirs. I could not be more proud of the company and what it stands for. That being said I have stepped down as the CEO and [am] relinquishing all responsibility to the current president, Nick Dierl. The company shouldn't have to deal with this distraction and I want Nick and the rest of the team to continue to do their good work while I take care of myself."
We will have more on this story as it develops.
[Update at 9:30 a.m., Wednesday, Jan. 15: Several of Berru's accusers responded to his statement last night via Twitter. Best Coast's Cosentino tweeted, "drugs and alcohol are no excuse but lemme bring them up as many times as I can," while publicist Judy Miller Silverman, who says she knew of Berru's behavior for years and tried to warn others, but was never personally harassed, wrote, "How about the sex addiction? The propensity to touch women against their will addiction?" Amber Coffman wrote, "Love that Heathcliff's initial statement uses 'alleged.' He knows damned well what he did. That's what I call a half assed apology." Roxy Lange, a former musician who says she was sexually assaulted by Berru when she was 21, simply wrote, "I want to throw up."]
[Update at 2:15 p.m.: Music publicist Beth Martinez, owner of music PR company Danger Village, has shared a response to Berru's statement with L.A. Weekly. Earlier, Martinez detailed her own experience dealing with Berru's unwanted sexual advances to New York magazine. The full text of her response is below.]
"I have the utmost sympathy for drug and alcohol addicts. I have been through addiction counseling and attended AA. I know and am friends with many addicts. Addiction does not turn you into a rapist. This is not an excuse for ten years of unwanted aggressive sexual advances towards women.
"The behavior that Heathcliff apologized for is not "offensive." Trying to place your penis in a woman's mouth or vagina while she says "no" repeatedly is rape. The stories I heard yesterday from women who are afraid to come forward describe these exact actions, and the stories range from happening ten years ago to just last month.
"I understand that it is hard for many people who have known Heathcliff Berru to rectify the cool guy they knew with the allegations that are being made against him. It boggles the mind to think that someone you like could also be a sociopath or a sexual predator. Often times people who knew serial killers are amazed because they seemed like such nice people.
"But these stories are true. And this is emblematic of a larger problem within our society of the degradation of women through sexual assault. Women are consistently shamed and bullied into keeping silent. Only now with the rise of social media are we able to share our stories safely. Change is happening. You will be hearing more stories like this."
[Note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly listed Run the Jewels as a client of Life or Death PR. We regret the error.]
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