Female Journalist Goes Undercover At Posh 'Men Only' London Fundraiser, Reports Widespread Groping

The attendees last Thursday, as in the past, were an elite from Britain's business, finance, fashion, entertainment and political establishment, an "esteemed" group if ever there was one, as the club's website says - esteemed to the man because it was, indeed, a "men only" event.

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Female Journalist Goes Undercover At Posh 'Men Only' London Fundraiser, Reports Widespread Groping

Financial Times reporter Madison Marriage went undercover at the London gala event.

Each year, for 33 years, "The President's Club Charitable Trust" has organized a fundraising dinner at London's exclusive Dorchester Hotel to benefit "worthy children's causes."

The attendees last Thursday, as in the past, were an elite from Britain's business, finance, fashion, entertainment and political establishment, an "esteemed" group if ever there was one, as the club's website says - esteemed to the man because it was, indeed, a "men only" event.

Men only, except for 130 "hostesses" hired to cater to the needs of the roughly 360 attendees.

Among the hostesses this year, however, were two who were infiltrators, a female journalist from the Financial Times named Madison Marriage and a woman working with her who went undercover to report on the event. They applied for hostess jobs and got them.

The first giveaway of the seedy behavior that would unfold at the secretive dinner came even before the reporters got there, while they were being prepped as hostesses.

The job requirements included "tall, thin and pretty," the FT's Marriage reported.

While the dinner was black-tie only, for the hostesses it was "BLACK sexy shoes, black underwear" and "short tight black dresses," along with a "thick black belt resembling a corset."

The emcee at the Dorchester event began the evening by welcoming the men "to the most un-PC event of the year."

That gave only a hint of what was to come, as Marriage described it in an explosive story published late Tuesday.

"With the dinner properly under way," she wrote, "the hostess brief was simple: keep this mix of British and foreign businessmen, the odd lord, politicians, oligarchs, property tycoons, film producers financiers and chief executives happy - and fetch drinks when required.

"A number of men stood with the hostesses while waiting for smoked salmon starters to arrive. Others remained seated and yet insisted on holding the hands of their hostesses . . . a prelude to pulling the women into their laps."

As burlesque dancers entertained on the stage, dressed in furry hats like those worn by the famous guards at Buckingham Palace, except for the "star shaped stickers" hiding their nipples, a 19-year-old hostess was asked by a "guest nearing his seventies" whether "she was a prostitute," which she was not, Marriage reported.

One hostess recounted to FT a scene of "braying men" fondling her bottom, stomach and legs. Another guest "lunged at her to kiss her."

"According to the accounts of multiple women working that night, groping and similar abuse was seen across many of the tables in the room," FT reported.

Hostesses said men "repeatedly" put their hands up their skirts, with one exposing himself to her during the festivities.

Hostesses who seemed unenthusiastic were prodded by "an enforcement team" to interact with the guests.

"Outside the women's toilets," the FT said, "a monitoring system was in place: women who spent too long were called out and led back to the ballroom."

One unnamed "society figure" grabbed a hostess "by the waist, pulled her in against his stomach and declared: 'I want you to down that glass, rip off your knickers and dance on that table.'"

Marriage, the reporter, told The Washington Post in a phone interview that she, too, was harassed but did not include that detail in her story because she wanted to focus on the young women who were abused. "I was propositioned and groped and received some very lewd comments," she said.

She said that after the event, "I genuinely felt incredibly sad and upset by what I had seen, the fact that the upper echelons of our society are operating this way in 2018." Marriage said she managed to stay in "professional mode" for the rest of the workweek. But then, on the Saturday after the event, "I went to see my parents and I burst out crying."

The other hostesses, who were paid about $211, were between the ages of 19 and 23, many of them students, some actors, dancers and models looking for a little extra money because their work is unstable, "especially in January when everyone is kind of broke." Marriage said that while many of the women were "disturbed and alarmed by what they experienced," others "enjoyed" working the event, especially if "they were doing it with a group of friends, which makes it a lot easier than doing it on your own."

She said she had been tipped off about the dinner. "We had reports from former hostesses that women weren't treated very well," she said. That prompted her to pitch the story to editors at the Times, who gave the go-ahead for an undercover operation only after considering alternatives, she said.

"The investigation isn't over yet," said Marriage. More stories are likely.

The Financial Times, a global paper based in London, is among the most respected news organizations in the world. But it is known more for its precise reporting of global finance and business and its clever columnists than for undercover reporting.

After the FT story broke, including some undercover video, the outrage was immediate.

The deputy leader of Britain's Liberal Democratic Party, Jo Swinson, called the story "simply stomach-churning."

"More than 300 rich businessmen were perfectly happy to attend such an event, which shows the rotten, sexist culture still alive and kicking in parts of the business community. Time's up on this crap."

"I should imagine" that the charities benefiting from the event "will be appalled that their good name has been sullied in this way," Conservative Party MP Anna Soubry told the Guardian.

On Twitter, people turned their wrath on the charities as well as on some of the attendees, particularly businessman David Meller, a director of Britain's Department of Education, who was just honored by the Queen as a "Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire." Meller was co-chair of the President's Club that ran the dinner.

Freddie Whittaker tweeted "Brilliant and horrifying @FT investigation reveals allegations of sexual harassment at Presidents Club dinner, which is co-chaired by DfE director David Meller, who was made a CBE earlier this month. . ."

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In a statement to the FT, the President's Club, noting that it had raised "several million pounds for disadvantaged children" at the event, said organizers were "appalled by the allegations of bad behaviour asserted by the Financial Times reporters. Such behaviour is totally unacceptable. The allegations will be investigated fully and promptly and appropriate action taken."

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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