THE top editor for the National Enquirer, Us Weekly and other major gossip publications openly described his sexual partners in the newsroom, discussed female employees’ sex lives and forced women to watch or listen to pornographic material, former employees have told the Associated Press.

The behaviour by Dylan Howard, currently the chief content officer of American Media, happened while he was running the company’s Los Angeles office, according to men and women who worked there.

Howard’s self-proclaimed nickname was “Dildo”, they said.

His conduct led to an internal inquiry in 2012 by an outside consultant, and former employees said he then stopped working out of the LA office.

Howard quit soon after the report was completed but the company rehired him a year later, with a promotion that landed him in the company’s main office in New York.

It was not clear whether he faced any disciplinary proceedings over the accusations or if there have been any sexual harassment allegations involving Howard since he was rehired.

The AP spoke to 12 former employees who knew about the investigation, though not all were aware of every detail. The outside investigator hired to examine complaints about Howard’s conduct also confirmed to the AP that he completed a report.

In a brief phone interview, Howard said the ex-employees’ claims were “baseless”.

American Media said that Howard “has the full support of AMI and its executives”. It said that since Howard was rehired, “he has continued to have the respect of his peers and colleagues”.

A lawyer for American Media confirmed an outside investigator was hired to look into two employees’ claims about Howard’s behaviour but did not find any serious wrongdoing. “It was determined that there was some, what you would call as, horsing around outside the office, going to bars and things that are not uncommon in the media business,” said Cam Stracher, “but none of it rose to the level of harassment that would require termination”.

American Media publishes the National Enquirer, RadarOnline, Star and other gossip publications and websites.

In March the company purchased the glossy Us Weekly magazine for a reported $100 million, significantly boosting its female readership.

Most of the former employees spoke to the AP anonymously because they had signed non-disclosure agreements, sometimes as part of severance packages.

Two former employees, one a senior manager and another a reporter in the LA office, agreed to be publicly identified to discuss Howard’s conduct.

“The behaviour that Dylan displayed and the way he was and the way the company dealt with it — I just think that it has to be made public because it’s completely unacceptable,” said Maxine “Max” Page, a former senior editor at RadarOnline. She complained to the human resources department about Howard’s behaviour on behalf of two female reporters.

Howard made inappropriate comments to and about one of those women, Page and six other ex-employees, she said.

Howard told employees he wanted to create a Facebook account on behalf of the woman’s vagina, commented on her sex life and forced her and other female employees to either watch or listen to graphic recordings of sex involving celebrities despite there being no professional rationale for doing so, they said.

A former senior editor said Howard wrongly claimed during a newsroom meeting the woman had had sex with a journalism source, saying she needed to “do what you need” to get a story.