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October 24, 2019

Jeff Luhnow

Washington, D.C. - Workout Day

Q. I want to take you back to Monday. Who wrote the initial statement that was disseminated from your organization, who approved it, and what was your initial investigation that led you to believe this story was fabricated?
JEFF LUHNOW: Well, first of all, thank you all for your time.

As you know, we released a statement, and in that statement we said a couple of things. First of all, apologies to Stephanie and to the rest of the people that were involved in the incident.

We have separated with Brandon Taubman, he's no longer an employee of the Astros. His behavior was inappropriate and not representative of who the Astros are and our culture and what we stand for.

That original reaction by the Astros was wrong, and we own it as an organization. There were many people involved in reviewing that and approving that. And I'm not going to get into the details of that.

It was wrong. It was the Astros' decision and that's where I'm going to leave that.

Q. Was that original statement, was that composed by one person or by a group of people?
JEFF LUHNOW: Like I said, I know you all are curious to see who wrote it and who approved it. And it was an organizational statement. There was nobody's name on it. There were a lot of people involved in reviewing it, looking at it, approving it. It was on behalf of the Astros.

But regardless of who wrote it and who approved it, it was wrong, it was incorrect. It should never have been sent out. We've learned a lesson about it.

We had a sense of what had happened that was different than what we found out pretty immediately afterwards but we wanted to wait and make further statements that were correct and not sort of react again to new information. Because, quite frankly, not all of the information that was received at the beginning, even in the middle, even at the end, is consistent with the other information.

So there are some varying degrees of detail recollection of who was where and all of that, as you would imagine after a long night. So it's not a hundred percent clear what the truth is, but what we do know is the truth is that those comments weren't appropriate. They were directed at individuals and that's inappropriate, and we weren't going to tolerate that.

Q. I think you just said you're not quite sure what the truth is?
JEFF LUHNOW: No, I'm not saying I don't know what the truth is. There's a lot of details when you're trying to reconstruct what happened in an evening like that.

The truth is that Brandon made inappropriate comments directed at people that were in the room, and they're not something that we stand for, that reflect our values or that we're going to tolerate, which is why it led us to the decision we made today.

Q. I know you don't want to say who wrote the statement, who came up with the idea, but I think a lot of people in this room are probably interested in sort of the mindset behind blaming the reporter for making up this story. You said you didn't want to say who came up with this idea but can you just talk about the mindset that you would turn around a statement pretty quickly pointing a finger at the female reporter in the room.
JEFF LUHNOW: Yeah, I can tell you it was wrong. The belief was that it was one colleague talking to another colleague and having been overheard and it was not intended to be overheard. We discovered later that that was indeed not the case. And that's wrong.

But, no, there's no -- it was incorrect to make that first statement. There's nothing about that first statement that was correct or that's defensible. And we take accountability for it, we take ownership of it, and it was wrong.

Q. You said it was two colleagues that were overheard, but you said that the reporter made up the story -- (no microphone.)
JEFF LUHNOW: I'm not defending that first statement and I don't want to parse the words in that first statement. It was incorrect, it was wrong. And we stand by it as an organization that it was incorrect, it was wrong, and that's all we can really say at this point.

I know you want more but I can't really give you more.

Q. The investigational interviews were conducted by the Astros, by Major League Baseball. In discussing discipline or resolution of this, did Major League Baseball have any input?
JEFF LUHNOW: Many of the interviews were done jointly. Some of the interviews were done independently. The Astros had done some interviews independently and Major League Baseball did interviews independently, and some were done jointly.

We decided once we had -- once the interviews were concluded yesterday that we were going to take action unilaterally ahead of Major League Baseball making any recommendations, and that's what we did.

Q. Can you talk about how embarrassing this is to you and the Astro organization?
JEFF LUHNOW: It's not what I want to be here talking about. And hopefully when AJ gets in here, he'll get back to talking about Game 3 and this series.

It's unfortunate timing and it's an unfortunate stage for this to occur, but it's wrong -- the comments that were made were incorrect, regardless of whether it was on a big stage or not.

So we stand by the decision that we made today.

Q. And back to that initial statement which, I know you are not going to give us much details about, did you play any role in that initial statement directly or indirectly?
JEFF LUHNOW: I saw it before it went out. And there's a lot of people that saw it before it went out. So in that respect, yes, I did.

Q. You just said you hope when AJ gets here we can talk about Game 3. Seems that part of the origin of this whole thing was Brandon's refusal to accept people who wanted to still voice their protest about the acquisition of Osuna. Are you at peace with the idea that this is a permanent stand from the Houston Astros and on your legacy, what has transpired these last few days?
JEFF LUHNOW: This was an employee that I hired and that's worked for us for five years who did something that was out of character for him, not consistent with his behavior in the past. That is not something that we condone or not reflective of what the Astros culture is all about or what we believe in.

Yeah, of course, any one person that belongs to an organization that does something is going to affect that organization. But this is not something that's endemic. This is not a cultural issue. We have a lot of really good people in our front office, in our coaching staff, and our team. And that's really much more representative of who we are than comments of an individual who, quite frankly, this is out of character for that individual as well.

Q. But than the statement, Brandon did not craft that statement, it goes beyond just one person. Is that fair?
A. Yeah, the organization has to own that statement. And I've said that. And as an organization we apologize for it, and that's really all I can give you at this point.

Q. In terms of accountability that you're talking about, how in the world could, from that time until now, only your manager have been made available publicly?
JEFF LUHNOW: We were cooperating with Major League Baseball in doing an investigation and going as quickly as we possibly can.

As you know, I did make some comments yesterday morning on the radio, and they were different than the statement. And I did apologize. And even though reporters chose to pick parts of that comment that were not the apology and put that as their headlines, I did apologize. I apologized to everybody involved. And at that point I had more information and I knew that that initial statement was correct. But we were halfway through the investigation and I wasn't going to make a statement in terms of actions or anything further than just an apology and that we're cooperating with MLB in looking into it.

I know that it felt like a long time, the news cycle is very quick, but we acted as quickly as we could and we made a determination last night and made an announcement today.

Q. Today's statement has an apology to Stephanie Apstein. Is the apology for her having to witness this incident or is the apology for you guys, the Astros, smearing her initial report?
JEFF LUHNOW: The apology is for both. It's for having to witness the incident and it's to the other reporters that were there and anybody who felt offended or that the comments were directed at them. And it certainly was also for the reaction that the Astros had immediately after the article was published, which was inappropriate and wrong. And we apologize for that.

Q. How many people were interviewed prior to the first statement that was issued and how many people ended up being interviewed before the statement that was issued today?
JEFF LUHNOW: So as you read in today's statement, it was not only the perspective of the person that was being accused but one corroborating witness that saw things basically that supported what he was telling us. It wasn't an investigation. So I'm not going to call it an investigation. It was just the information that we had quickly.

There were a number of people that were -- anybody who was in the room within earshot that was around was ultimately interviewed, and I don't know the exact number. I wasn't involved in the interviews, but it's more than a few.

Q. Why was it important for you to issue a statement so quickly after the story appeared?
JEFF LUHNOW: I think when a story comes out that's negative you have two choices: You either respond immediately if you think it's potentially not true; or you wait and figure out what the facts are and then respond. And we made the wrong decision, we responded quickly thinking that it was not true. And it turned out that that was an incorrect way to go about it.

Q. There seems to be a conflation of two things that happened; one was what Brandon did that night and one was how you guys reacted. For what Brandon did he lost his job today. For the other thing, if we're not here right now, for what you just said was not even an investigation you smeared and potentially damaged a person's career. Shouldn't there be a price paid for the people who decided that that was the idea in the way that Brandon Taubman just had to pay with his career?
JEFF LUHNOW: I don't know the answer to that, to be honest with you.

Q. You're one of the people who runs the organization.
JEFF LUHNOW: I run the baseball operations, as you know.

Q. Well, Jim Crane hasn't come today, Jeff.
JEFF LUHNOW: I understand that. And we're taking responsibility and accountability for that and apologizing for it. And at this point that's all I can tell you. I don't have anything else to give you. Sorry about that.

Q. You said there were a number of people with the statement and all that. My question is, will there be further disciplinary action other than what's already been taken?
JEFF LUHNOW: You know, the person that was responsible for making those inappropriate comments has been terminated from employment with the Astros. And that's the action that we've taken at this point. I don't know what's going to happen in the future.

Q. You thought so highly of him, didn't you just extend him a new contract?
JEFF LUHNOW: Yeah. He's been a valuable employee. We hired him over five years ago, he's moved up quickly in the organization. He's smart. He's hard working. And these comments that he made were out of character. He hasn't had this type of incident before. This is not a repeating pattern of anything, which is why it was so easy for -- one reason why it was so easy for us to believe that it was more innocent than it turned out to be.

Q. This is an emotional game. Emotions swing back and forth. What was it like for you emotionally to find out what had happened to one of your prized employees?
JEFF LUHNOW: It's devastating. It's not something that I wish on anybody in this room. Just like I don't wish any of you to be standing up here having to answer these questions, either.

But it's part of life. And we learn our lessons from it. And Brandon, I'm sure, has learned a lesson and hopefully will never do anything like that again. And I think everybody that observed it has also learned a lesson. And we as an organization have certainly learned a lesson about taking our time to react and making sure that we don't do anything to make the situation worse, because that's essentially what we did.

Q. To go back to your answer a few minutes ago, just for clarity sake, between the time the story came out and the first statement, you only interviewed Taubman and one other Astros employee?
JEFF LUHNOW: I wouldn't say "interviewed" because it's not a -- we weren't doing an investigation. We did have some warning that the article was coming out, didn't know what the details of it were. So we had an opportunity to ask a few people who we knew were in the room what their observations were. And that was the extent of it, including the person that we knew was going to be accused of saying inappropriate things.

Q. On the radio you said yesterday that there were different perspectives about that incident. How could that square with the sentiment you're giving right now about how sorry you are for what happened?
JEFF LUHNOW: I'm very sorry. Different perspectives because the original impression that we had, without doing an investigation, and that's our fault for not doing the investigation, was that it was two colleagues talking who were overheard and the comments were not directed at anybody in particular, not meant to be mean spirited in any way or offensive in any way; just supportive of the player who had had a bad night. That's the one perspective.

And obviously the other perspective is that those comments were inappropriate, and said over and over and louder and intended to be heard. That's what I was talking about, just different points of view about what happened.

But as we continued to investigate, it was clear that they were intended to be heard. And they were completely inappropriate. They were inappropriate anyway. But supporting a player is not inappropriate; but supporting it in order to make someone feel something negative, that is inappropriate.

Q. (No microphone.)
JEFF LUHNOW: No, I didn't want to talk -- we were still -- I didn't do the interviews; right? I was waiting for the conclusion. But I had gotten some more information myself and at that point, I knew that the story we had heard originally was very different than the story that I was now hearing. Simple as that.

Q. Have you personally reached out to apologize to any of the women who were directly impacted by this? And also do you feel that in some ways this has set back some of the supposed progress that women have made in the clubhouse and the locker room?
JEFF LUHNOW: I can't answer that second question. There's a lot of really talented female journalists in baseball and other sports, and in journalism in general, and I hope that continues. There's no reason to think that this is a setback, I hope.

I have not -- I have been traveling up here. We've been -- I had to have a pretty tough conversation this morning with someone that's worked with me for a long time. But I will as soon as I can.

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