May 21, 2018 / 7:05 AM / 3 months ago

Police probe celebrity chef Mario Batali for sexual misconduct - media

May 20 (Reuters) - Celebrity chef Mario Batali, who already faces sexual harassment accusations from four women, is under criminal investigation by the New York Police Department for sexual misconduct, television program 60 Minutes said on Sunday.

Batali “vehemently” denied the new allegations in a statement to CBS, which airs the program.

Reuters could not independently confirm the accusations and was unable to immediately reach police or a representative of Batali for comment, as repeated telephone calls and email messages to both went unanswered.

The chef, who owns numerous restaurants, is accused of drugging and sexually assaulting an employee at one of his restaurants in 2005 in the new criminal investigation, according to the report.

The woman, whose name was not stated in the program, told correspondent Anderson Cooper she was invited by Batali to a party at the Spotted Pig, a trendy restaurant in New York’s West Village owned by a friend of Batali.

CBS concealed her face in the interview with shaded lighting. She said she was afraid the revelation of her identity would hurt her future job prospects in the industry.

“Who wants to be defined by their worst day in their life?” she asked.

Other restaurant workers told Cooper on the record that they witnessed Batali inappropriately touching other women.

The new accusations are the latest in the era of the #MeToo movement, which has ensnared media moguls and celebrities.

“America’s Dad” Bill Cosby, 80, who is best known for his 1980s comedy TV program “The Cosby Show,” was convicted in April of three counts of sexual assault for an incident in 2004. He faces up to 30 years in prison.

Batali was fired in December 2017 by ABC as co-host of The Chew, a daytime food and talk show, and also stepped away from his restaurant company after the accusations by the four women first surfaced. (Writing by Rich McKay in Atlanta; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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