BOSTON — A Boston business chief who broke the public silence of a 225-year-old Harvard all-male club apologized after critics said his comments blamed women for sexual assault.
Charlie Storey, the president of Boston’s Harpoon Brewery, wrote a letter to Harvard’s student newspaper defending the school’s social clubs for refusing to accept women. He was writing as graduate president of the Porcellian Club, a storied Harvard club that formed in 1791 and is known for its long tradition of secrecy.
The Porcellian Club, whose past members include Theodore Roosevelt, is among several so-called final clubs that are under scrutiny from Harvard’s administration for refusing to accept women. In March, a university task force accused the clubs of having deeply misogynistic attitudes that have fueled sexual misconduct.
Storey pushed back against the report in his letter, saying that sexual assault hasn’t been a problem in the Porcellian Club.
“Forcing single gender organizations to accept members of the opposite sex could potentially increase, not decrease the potential for sexual misconduct,” he wrote, adding that his club is being used as a scapegoat for the sexual assault problem at Harvard despite its policies to help avoid the potential for sexual assault.”
Calls to Storey’s office weren’t returned. A man who answered the Porcellian Club’s phone number declined to comment.
On social media, the letter sparked criticism from figures including Chirlane McCray, the wife of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, and U.S. Rep. Katherine Clark, a Massachusetts Democrat.
“Or, instead of blaming women, you could focus on teaching members of your club to NOT sexually assault people,” Clark wrote on Twitter.
McCray wrote on Twitter that if clubs refuse to accept women because they might be sexually assaulted, “intervention is needed.”
In response to Storey’s letter, Dean Rakesh Khurana of Harvard’s undergraduate college said in a statement that the attitudes and behaviors of single-gender clubs “remain at odds with the aspirations of the 21st century to which the college hopes and expects our students will contribute,” and that the college has a responsibility to protect students.
By Wednesday evening, Storey had posted an apology on Harpoon Brewery’s website, saying his letter was misinterpreted.
“Unfortunately, I chose my words poorly and it came out all wrong,” he wrote. “I take the issue of sexual assault extremely seriously, and I am truly sorry to those I have offended.”
He added that his comments “in no way reflect of the values and views of Harpoon Brewery.”