In her email to staff on Tuesday, Ms. Reidhead acknowledged that Norton could have done more to look into the allegations. “As a publishing company we are limited in our investigative abilities,” she wrote, “but we recognize that there may be situations, such as allegations of potentially criminal conduct, where we should actively consider bringing in outside assistance.”
Some of the allegations against Mr. Bailey were reported earlier by The Times-Picayune/New Orleans Advocate and The Los Angeles Times, and additional accusations have been reported since.
In an email to the Times last week, Mr. Bailey denied the allegations, calling them “categorically false and libelous.” A lawyer for Mr. Bailey, Billy Gibbens, called Norton’s response to the allegations “troubling and unwarranted.”
In an email on Tuesday, Mr. Gibbens added: “Norton made the drastic, unilateral decision to take Mr. Bailey’s books out of print, based on the false and unsubstantiated allegations against him, without undertaking any investigation or offering Mr. Bailey the opportunity to refute the allegations.”
Norton did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.
Since the #MeToo movement began, publishers have canceled contracts with a number of authors who have faced charges of sexual harassment and assault. In 2018, Simon and Schuster canceled a forthcoming book on the 2016 election by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin, authors of the best seller “Game Change,” after Mr. Halperin was accused of sexually harassing women at ABC News, where he once directed political coverage.
And in March 2020, Hachette Book Group dropped a forthcoming memoir by Woody Allen amid a wave of criticism, including a walkout by employees, who cited the longstanding accusations that Mr. Allen had molested his adopted stepdaughter Dylan. (Both Mr. Allen and Mr. Halperin later found other publishers.)
Pulling books that have already been published is less common, and even Norton’s initial “pause” last week drew concern from free expression groups. In a statement last week, the National Coalition Against Censorship said books must be judged “on their content.”