A Message from Anime Matsuri’s CEO, John Leigh
In 2015, I was accused of sexual harassment. Some messages surfaced in support of the allegations between me and people I considered close friends. These things I said, while meant to be taken as humor between friends, were wrong, they were crass, and they were in bad taste; I was wrong to send them.
I am making this statement today because these past allegations and comments have resurfaced, and I want to be clear that I know that they were wrong and that I do not stand by or condone them. Sexual harassment is wrong.
Although my messages were intended to be humorous and not serious, I realize that my intentions do not outweigh the way my words hurt the people I sent them to. At the time, I didn’t realize that I was being hurtful or harassing, and I was shocked to learn that my messages had been so hurtful to their recipients, again, people I considered my close friends.
Since then, I have been taking steps to learn and understand where I went wrong and to make sure I would not repeat these mistakes. I know now that such comments don’t belong in any part of my life, especially as part of a professional working relationship.
Over the past four years, I have grown and evolved both as a person and as this convention’s CEO. One of the most important lessons I have learned over the years is that we must all take responsibility for our actions and understand how they affect others. Not intending to cause harm is not an excuse, as now I understand we should all stop for a moment, and think about how what we say and do might affect the people we interact with. The only way that can happen is through discussion.
I have listened to the stories of those who have been harassed, people who have been bullied or objectified, and people who have suffered in silence, afraid of speaking out. I understand now that my actions were unacceptable. I sincerely want to apologize to everyone that has been affected by my mistakes, because by recognizing, acknowledging and apologizing, and not repeating them is how I will continue to improve as a person.
My past actions have led others to rally against both Anime Matsuri and me. They have also led to the bullying and harassment of several Anime Matsuri guests. Upon consulting with our attorney, we decided to undertake legal action in an attempt to protect our guests; however, the actions we took had the unintended consequences of stifling conversations about sexual harassment. These are important conversations about issues that deeply affect our community, and in an effort to take the step toward making our community one that is united, respectful and safe, we have decided to withdraw all pending legal action.
To those who have been affected by sexual harassment, please speak out. Your voice should be heard.
To those who witness harassment, whether it is of a friend or a stranger, please speak out too. Recognizing and calling out harassment as it happens is an important way to help others recognize inappropriate behavior so that they can understand the impact of even unintended wrongs, correct them and in doing so help build a safer, more supportive community. A community that I am proud to be part of, and one that I know my family can be happy in.
As for me, I want to do whatever I can to bring about a positive change, not just in myself, but in the community as a whole. I want to be able to look at myself, believing that I am doing all I can to leave a positive imprint on the world. I want to serve as an example of how someone can stumble, correct their mistakes, and become a better person. More than anything, I want to be able to look at my children in the eye, and tell them that I know they can have a home within this community that we love so much.
My goal has always been and will continue to be to bring the best parts of this amazing community to our city. To make a place where all of our passionate attendees and guests can feel safe, welcomed and accepted. To put Houston and Texas on the map in the anime community and to give its residents opportunities to participate in something that would otherwise be inaccessible to them.
I owe it to you all to do better. I can do better, I will do better, and I sincerely apologize.