Jerry Berger Banned from Post-Dispatch for "Inappropriate Behavior"
Berger -- who retired from the St. Louis daily in 2004 and recently debuted his own online gossip column -- has remained a somewhat regular fixture at the Post-Dispatch over the years, turning up in the newsroom every three or four weeks.
Recently, though, Berger's visits have gotten a bit -- shall we say -- touchy. Late last week the paper sent the erstwhile employee a letter informing him he was forbidden to set foot inside the building at 900 North Tucker Boulevard. The reason?
"After a recent newsroom visit, we received several complaints from staff members about inappropriate behavior directed at them from Jerry," says P-D editor Arnie Robbins. "I love Jerry. We're friends. But we cannot tolerate that type of behavior in the newsroom."
Robbins declines to elaborate on the "inappropriate behavior," but Daily RFT has heard from one Post-Dispatch staffer who says he and several colleagues were the target of Berger's untoward advances.
The reporter, who asked not to be identified, says that he and three other staffers were interviewed by the Post-Dispatch HR department following complaints that Berger groped them or made lewd comments to them.
"There's no way," responds Berger. "I don't know where that came from. I've been in a monogamous relationship with someone for thirteen years."
Reached by phone, the 76-year-old Berger confirms he received the letter from the Post-Dispatch banning him from the building. He says he doesn't know why he has been deemed persona non grata and disputes allegations that he came on to anyone.
Berger, who speaks these days in a barely audible whisper as a result of having lost part of a lung to cancer, says he threw the letter away with his junk mail.
He adds that he customarily greets people with a kiss and speculates that some of his salutations may have been misinterpreted. "They're Hollywood kisses," says Berger. "They are without emotion. I kiss. I hug. I'm happy to be alive."
"Went to visit my old friends in the newsroom at the P-D - just saying hello, reminiscing, a few smooches and hugs. Three weeks after my innocent visit, I received a letter from the Post banning me from the building!"Berger says he's already received emails from several readers expressing shock that the paper would ban him from the building.
In recent weeks Berger has posted a few nuggets in his column that seemed to be aimed at embarrassing the Post-Dispatch, such as an item last week that the financially strapped company was considering doing away with water coolers in the break room as a cost-saving measure.
Berger suggests that perhaps the ban was a form of retaliation. "That has crossed my mind," he says.
Post-Dispatch sources speculate that Berger targeted the Post because he knew he was about to be 86'ed. They cite another item from last week, in which Berger wrote that the paper's publisher spent thousands of dollars remodeling his office. That item, sources say, was old news.
Whatever the case, Berger says he can live with the ban.
"So be it," he says. "I don't have to go down there. I can still get the information I need from my many moles."
He adds that his online column is doing great -- to the tune of a hundred thousand hits per column.