By: Don Babwin, Associated Press Writer
(AP) Chicago Tribune columnist Bob Greene, who resigned over the weekend, had a sexual encounter with a teenager whom he met in his office while she was working on a high school project, the newspaper reported Monday.
Quoting sources familiar with the incident, the paper said Greene wrote about her in his column, asked her to dinner, and had a sexual encounter with her. The story quoted sources as saying that Greene acknowledged the encounter, which happened more than a decade ago, to Tribune executives and that the woman was of the age of legal consent at the time.
The paper announced the resignation of its longtime columnist in a front page note Sunday.
In a lengthy story in Monday’s editions, Tribune executives refused to discuss details of the resignation. It said an internal investigation had been triggered by an e-mail to the paper’s news tip line.
Greene, 55, told The Associated Press in an e-mail Sunday that there have been “indiscretions in my life that I am not proud of.” He did not specifically address the conduct that led to his resignation. “I don’t have the words to express the sadness I feel,” Greene wrote. “I am very sorry for anyone I have let down, including the readers who have for so long meant so much to me.”
He said he needed “to be with my family and loved ones.” He and his wife, who were married in 1971, have two children.
In a telephone call, Greene declined to discuss the matter further.
Greene has written extensively on social issues and American life in columns that appeared in the Tribune four times a week and were syndicated for newspapers around the country. In 1998, he was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for columns on local children whose lives were mishandled by the judicial and welfare systems. He has also written several books, including “Hang Time: Days and Dreams with Michael Jordan,” and provided commentary on Tribune-owned WGN-TV.
The story quoted sources as saying that during the last year the woman phoned Greene twice. The day after the second call, the paper reported, the woman was allegedly contacted by FBI agents who suggested that she may be posing a threat to the columnist. Carrie McCune, spokeswoman for the FBI’s Chicago office, said Monday that the office was attempting to figure out whether Greene had made any complaint.
Greene’s last column appeared in the Tribune on Wednesday.
In her statement printed Sunday, Editor Ann Marie Lipinski wrote, “Greene’s behavior was a serious violation of Tribune ethics and standards for its journalists. We deeply regret the conduct, its effect on the young woman, and the impact the disclosure has on the trust our readers placed in Greene and this newspaper.”
Greene’s resignation was “a gut-wrenching shock to me,” said Paul Galloway, a retired Tribune staff writer. He said he met Greene when the two began working at the Chicago Sun-Times on the same day in 1969 and called Greene a colleague and friend.