'60 Minutes' chief Jeff Fager leaves CBS amid harassment accusations
Jeff Fager, the executive producer of the flagship CBS news program "60 Minutes," has left the network.
His exit follows articles by Ronan Farrow in the New Yorker that included accusations that Fager inappropriately touched employees, and a report by The Washington Post's Erik Wemple that Fager tolerated years of alleged abusive conduct by a senior producer.
"This action today is not directly related to the allegations surfaced in press reports, which continue to be investigated independently," CBS News President David Rhodes said in a memo. "However, he violated company policy and it is our commitment to uphold those policies at every level."
It is unclear what specific company policy the memo references.
Fager said in a separate statement that the allegations in the New Yorker are "false" and that the decision by CBS was unrelated.
"They terminated my contract early because I sent a text message to one of our own CBS reporters demanding that she be fair in covering the story. My language was harsh and, despite the fact that journalists receive harsh demands for fairness all the time, CBS did not like it," Fager said." One such note should not result in termination after 36 years, but it did."
Jericka Duncan, the reporter to whom Fager sent the message, revealed the contents of the text during Wednesday's edition of "CBS Evening News."
"If you repeat these false accusations without any of your own reporting to back them up, you will be responsible for harming me. Be careful," Fager wrote, according to Duncan. "There are people who lost their jobs trying to harm me and if you pass on these damaging claims without your own reporting to back them up that will become a serious problem."
Fager, a former CBS News chairman, has also been accused of dissuading employees from reporting incidents to human resources. He told Wemple at The Post, "I have never discouraged anyone from going to HR."
The departure comes at a time of intense public scrutiny of CBS, including the recent resignation of its CEO, Leslie Moonves, once among the most powerful and well-compensated media executives.
Several weeks ago, CBS brought in outside law firms to conduct investigations following an initial New Yorker article largely focused on misconduct allegations against Moonves. The report also included anonymous accounts from former employees that Fager inappropriately touched employees at company parties.
A second New Yorker article published Sunday included more allegations against Moonves of sexual assault, harassment and intimidation. A former CBS intern, Sarah Johansen, also told Farrow that Fager groped her at a work party. "I really felt like this was one of the most sexist places I've ever worked," she said.
Moonves said in a statement that "untrue allegations from decades ago are now being made against me that are not consistent with who I am."
Fager became a decorated journalist during his 36 years at CBS News, and just last year wrote a book chronicling the history of the venerated program "60 Minutes" to mark its 50th anniversary.
An executive producer of "CBS Evening News with Dan Rather" in the late 1990s, Fager took over the same role at "60 Minutes" before becoming chairman of CBS News in 2011. He returned as full-time executive producer at "60 Minutes" in 2015, and this fall would have marked his 15th as chief of the news magazine program.
Bill Owens will manage "60 Minutes" as the company searches for a replacement, Rhodes said in his memo, adding the interim CEO of CBS, Joe Ianniello, "is in full support of the decision and the transition to come."
Moonves is expected to receive millions from a settlement with the CBS board. According to a company statement, Moonves and the company would be making a $20 million donation, taken from Moonves' severance, "to one or more organizations that support the #MeToo movement and equality for women in the workplace."
In November 2017, CBS News dropped Charlie Rose following a Post investigation detailing allegations of unwanted sexual advances toward women. Rose had been a co-anchor since 2012 on "CBS This Morning" and a contributing correspondent on "60 Minutes."
"Despite Charlie's important journalistic contribution to our news division, there is absolutely nothing more important, in this or any organization, than ensuring a safe, professional workplace - a supportive environment where people feel they can do their best work," Rhodes said in a memo last year. "We need to be such a place."
This article was written by Elahe Izadi, a reporter for The Washington Post.