When Heather McDonald first heard University of California regent Norman Pattiz make what she said were sexual remarks about her clothing and body, she initially brushed them off. McDonald was working at the radio company PodcastOne, where Pattiz is the executive chairman, and she felt uncomfortable as a result of what she said was verbal harassment by Pattiz. However, she believed that by avoiding Pattiz, she could continue to record her podcast, Juicy Scoop, in peace.
But as McDonald said the comments became increasingly offensive, she realized this strategy wouldn’t work. Instead, she played an audio recording of one of her encounters with Pattiz on the Oct. 27 episode of her podcast.
On the recording, Pattiz is heard saying, “Can I hold your breasts?”
When McDonald said no, Pattiz said his hands were “memory foam.”
McDonald also said that Pattiz once joked about following her into a women’s restroom and made derogatory remarks to Ji Min Park, who left PodcastOne in August after saying that Pattiz sexually harassed her, telling her that she looked like a schoolgirl and that he had watched many videos with schoolgirls in them.
For McDonald, comments like these made her feel inferior.
“It makes you feel inadequate,” McDonald said. “It keeps you from being the successful person you want to be because it makes you uncomfortable.”
McDonald, who left PodcastOne soon after the alleged incident, said she was hesitant to discuss the comments Pattiz made toward her at first, but she became motivated to come out with her story after other women accused then-Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and former Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes of sexual assault and harassment. McDonald said that after she discussed her experiences, many women emailed her to show their support and share their stories of harassment at the hands of male superiors and coworkers.
“Since I’ve come forward with the story, I’ve been besieged with hundreds of emails of long stories from women who are 20 to women who are 50 and 60 who remember situations of sexual harassment,” McDonald said. “I want men to know that their words last forever.”
In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Pattiz apologized for his comments.
“There is no excuse for any such comments or making anyone feel uncomfortable,” Pattiz said. “If I did that, I sincerely apologize, and it will be a valuable learning experience.”
Amanda Deutchman, a spokesperson for PodcastOne, declined requests for further comment.
While the UC system has policies regarding how sexual harassment on campus is handled, it is uncertain how these policies affect people like Pattiz, who have allegedly committed these acts off campus.
Monica Lozano, chair of the UC Board of Regents, said in an email statement that she did not take the allegations against Pattiz lightly.
“We take the allegations of sexual harassment against Regent Norman Pattiz very seriously and find his comments as reported to be inappropriate and highly offensive,” Lozano wrote. “Current UC Board of Regents policies do not specifically address the behavior of members while they are not engaged in University business, but I intend to bring forward new policies that will remedy this. We cannot tolerate behavior that violates the University’s Statement of Ethical Values.”
McDonald, however, said she does not feel the UC system took a strong enough stance against Pattiz, saying that he should not be allowed to affect campus sexual assault policies in his position as a regent.
“I don’t think a 73-year-old man who has perpetually sexually harassed females in the workplace should be making decisions on how sexual harassment is treated on college campuses,” McDonald said. “My step-daughter is 17 and applying to UC schools, and she could be in a place where if she’s sexually harassed or hurt by someone who is rich and powerful, it won’t get the same kind of attention because of the status of the [perpetrator].”
McDonald said she is proud to have spoken about her experiences and hopes she can inspire other women to come forward with their stories of sexual harassment or assault.
“I had a Hollywood publicist tell me ‘you don’t want this to define you,’ and I said ‘I would love it to define me,’” McDonald said of her statements against Pattiz. “‘What do I want to be known as: someone who can do a Drew Barrymore impression better than anyone else, or Heather McDonald, a comedian who spoke up about her situation and inspired others to speak as well?’”