UPDATE: Charlie Walk has resigned from The Four, according to Deadline. He will appear on Thursday’s episode, as it was pre-taped, but he will not be on the finale next week. The Fox network has not yet disclosed how it will address the decision on air or if it will replace him.
Charlie Walk, the president of Republic Group and a judge on the Fox reality show The Four, faces accusations of sexual harassment from a former employee that worked under Walk at Sony Music.
In “#MeToo: An Open Letter to Charlie Walk,” Tristan Coopersmith details her time working with Walk as well as the unwanted advances and sexual misconduct she endured during her yearlong tenure. According to her LinkedIn page, Coopersmith worked as a Director of Millennial Research and Marketing between July 2004 and August 2005.
Coopersmith begins the open letter on her Life Lab blog by telling Walk how the Sony Music job was initially “the opportunity of a lifetime” for her. “I was in shock. I couldn’t believe a music mogul like yourself wanted ME to come work for YOU. And not only did you want me to work for you, you wanted me to start my very own department,” she wrote.
“You introduced me to other music moguls like Donnie Ienner and Lyor Cohen and my ultimate (now fallen) hero, Russell Simmons. You gave me a fancy office, an assistant and a budget. You took me backstage to shows and got me private meet ‘n greets with the likes of Prince. You gave me opportunities beyond my wildest imagination.”
However, “You also made me feel sick to my stomach almost every day,” she wrote of Walk.
Coopersmith then laid out her accusations against Walk who, despite being married with children, allegedly routinely propositioned his then-27-year-old employee. Coopersmith claims Walk would call her into his office, “stealthily close the door and make lewd comments about my body and share your fantasies of having sex with me.” She also accused Walk of sending her lewd instant messages, “Truly vulgar words and ideas.”
The behavior allegedly soon escalated to touching – “You invited me to dinners that in hindsight I had no business being at, but you did it so that you could put your hand on my thigh under the table, every time inching it closer and closer to my sacred place” – often in the presence of Walk’s wife.
“And then there was that event at your swank pad when you actually cornered me and pushed me into your bedroom and onto your bed. The bed you shared with your wife… your wife who was in the room next door,” Coopersmith alleged. “You being drunk and me being six inches taller was my saving grace.”
After a year at Sony Music, Coopersmith says she talked to Walk’s counterpart about the harassment. That unnamed person allegedly told Coopersmith that there was nothing she could do about Walk’s behavior and offered to help “coordinate a graceful exit” from the company. “I was paid to keep my mouth shut and my reputation intact. I’m ashamed of that piece but it’s a truthful part of my story,” Coopersmith wrote. “I took that dirty money and moved to L.A.”
A three-decade veteran of the music industry, the 51-year-old Walk began his career in 1990 at Columbia Records, a division of Sony Music, where he reportedly promoted artists like New Kids on the Block, the Fugees, Mariah Carey, Destiny’s Child and more. Walk became a president of Epic Records, another Sony Music subsidiary, in 2005 and remained in that capacity until leaving the company in 2009.
Four years later, after a stint in advertising and marketing, Walk joined Republic Records as an executive vice president and was instrumental in reviving the label – at the time, Republic specialized in motion picture soundtracks – and promoting the label’s hits like Enrique Inglesias’ “Bailando,” Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” and Lorde’s “Royals.” Thanks to the label’s success, Universal Music Group established the Republic Group in 2016, with Walk named as president.
Walk, who previously praised singing competitions as star makers in a 2014 Billboard article, was also recruited – along with Diddy, DJ Khaled, Meghan Trainor and host Fergie – to appear as a judge on Fox’s The Four, the network’s American Idol heir apparent. “We have only recently learned of these past allegations regarding Mr. Walk,” a rep for Fox says. “We are currently reviewing this matter and are committed to fostering a safe environment on all of our shows.”
“It is very upsetting to learn of this untrue allegation made by someone who worked with me 15 years ago, without incident,” Walk said in a statement. “There has never been a single HR claim against me at any time during my 25+ year career, spanning three major companies. I have consistently been a supporter of the women’s movement and this is the first time I have ever heard of this or any other allegation – and it is false.”
A rep for Universal Media Group, the major label that operates Walk’s Republic, said in a statement of the allegations, “While it appears this blog post relates to the period prior to Mr. Walk’s appointment to his position at Republic Records, we take the allegations very seriously and intend to conduct a full and complete review of this matter.” A rep for Sony Music declined to comment.
“To you, Charlie Walk what you did was normal. It was a power you perceived to have earned, with a right to exercise it. But to me it was insulting, confusing and objectifying. And it was a secret that I held for a very long time, my experiences only spilling out in flashbacks and nightmares. And my silence paid off,” Coopersmith, now a licensed psychotherapist after leaving the entertainment industry, wrote in her open letter.
“The culture [at Columbia] allowed toxic masculinity from the top down,” a former female executive at Columbia who worked with Walk for over a decade, tells Rolling Stone. “It was almost de rigueur in the promotion department. So many colleagues have shared mutual stories but for fear of their careers are afraid to be on the record. I hope that Tristan’s courage will help all the women who have confided in me or their friends to come forward to help undo the culture. In the Nineties and early 2000s, you could throw a stick at [Sony Music headquarters] 550 Madison Ave. and find dozens of men behaving inappropriately.”
“The truth is Charlie Walk there will always be scumbags like you,” Coopersmith wrote in her letter. “I know this because you’re raising sons who will follow in your own footsteps. But here’s the thing, I’m raising a son too. And I’m raising him to respect himself so that he can respect others, including women. I’m raising him to stand up to a-holes like you in honor of women. I’m raising him to know that healthy relationships don’t involve power. I’m raising him to be what you weren’t raised to be, a decent human being.”
Coopersmith concluded her open letter by writing “I don’t wish ill for you, Charlie Walk. Only the possibility of personal awakening, accountability and transformation so that you can use your power for good. I forgive you, Charlie Walk. I hope you can forgive yourself.”
Additional reporting by Jason Newman