Ronan Farrow’s latest #MeToo movement bombshell in The New Yorker takes aim at sexual misconduct allegations against CBS boss Leslie Moonves, and his investigative report could also tarnish the sterling reputation of network’s esteemed newsmagazine “60 Minutes.”
“During Moonves’ tenure, men at CBS News who were accused of sexual misconduct were promoted, even as the company paid settlements to women with complaints,” Farrow wrote.
“60 Minutes” executive producer Jeff Fager – the former chairman of CBS News -- is one of the CBS News honchos that Farrow referenced. The celebrity scion cited 19 current and former staffers who allege that Fager “allowed harassment in the division,” while six former staffers have accused Fager of inappropriate touching.
“In one incident, at which several employees were present, Fager allegedly made drunken advances to an associate producer, commenting on her breasts and becoming belligerent when she rebuffed him,” Farrow wrote, adding that Fager denied the allegations.
CBS has announced plans to investigate all allegations made in Farrow’s piece. CBS did not immediately respond when asked whether or not Fager will continue to oversee “60 Minutes” while the investigation is ongoing. The CBS board of directors is scheduled to meet on Monday.
The prestigious newsmagazine reportedly attempted to impede investigation by print publications and Fager reportedly hired a high-powered law firm to kill a Washington Post report that would have accused him of sexual misconduct. Fager’s lawyers attacked the credibility of the Post’s reporters and threatened legal action, according to Farrow.
Farrow reported that a Washington Post investigation into claims of widespread harassment at CBS was derailed when “lawyers retained by Fager threatened to sue” the paper and “presented testimonials about Fager’s good character.” The story eventually published by the paper didn’t include allegations against Fager, but the paper denied it allowed legal pressure to influence its coverage.
“The hypocrisy of an investigative news program shutting down an investigative print story is incredible,” a CBS employee told Farrow.
Daily Caller media editor Amber Athey echoed the anonymous CBS employee, but feels that “many high-profile men in media are more interested in protecting themselves and their counterparts” than they are in creating a respectful work environment.
“It's definitely ironic that Fager hired a firm known for killing #MeToo stories while producing a show that highlights investigative reporting,” Athey told Fox News.
“CBS has to hold ‘60 Minutes’ to the same standards for integrity that it has held the subjects of its reporting over the years."
Media analyst and professor Jeffrey McCall told Fox News that “60 Minutes” has a solid foundation, but CBS must move quickly to address these recent allegations.
“CBS has to hold ‘60 Minutes’ to the same standards for integrity that it has held the subjects of its reporting over the years. Also, CBS must be as transparent as possible and know that other media outlets will be covering the Fager allegations as news. Sandbagging will look bad for a news program that established its reputation for holding powerful institutions accountable,” McCall said.
Farrow’s piece also alleges that Fager “protected men accused of misconduct” and kept specific incidents from CBS’ human resources department. Fager also denied this claim, telling Farrow that he has “never discouraged anyone from going to H.R.”
Meanwhile, Fager reportedly promoted “60 Minutes” senior producer Michael Radutzky to a position of leadership despite knowledge of abusive behavior. A former staffer told Farrow that Fager not only “turned a blind eye” to inappropriate behavior but also “seemed to encourage” it.
“It's definitely ironic that Fager hired a firm known for killing #MeToo stories while producing a show that highlights investigative reporting."
Farrow reported that Radutzky “threatened to throw furniture” at a female staffer named Vicki Gordon and once “twisted her arm behind her back, causing her to scream.” Radutzky denied the allegations and Farrow also reported that Fager instructed the alleged victim not to report the incident to human resources.
Fager even asked her to apologize to Radutzky, to “mitigate conflict in the office,” according to Farrow.
“60 Minutes” is in its 50th year and has won countless journalism awards, and stories produced by Fager alone have racked up 68 Emmys, 11 Peabodys, and 17 Edward R. Murrow Awards. Fager has spent more than 35 years at CBS News, working up from low-level producer to chairman of the network’s news division. According to the network’s official bio for the longtime honcho, Fager moved from the role of chairman back to executive producer of “60 Minutes” because his “mission" was complete after rejuvenating CBS News.
Iconic journalist Lesley Stahl, who has worked on “60 Minutes” for more than 25 years, defended Fager -- who ran all of CBS News from 2011 until 2015.
"It's safe to say Fager is going to be subjected to the same intense scrutiny that 60 Minutes has engaged in so effectively for the past 50 years.”
“In my own experience, Jeff is supportive of women and decent to women,” Stahl told Farrow.
Fager himself blamed allegations on a “few people with an ax to grind,” and “60 Minutes” contributor Anderson Cooper also denied ever seeing Fager partake in inappropriate behavior.
Despite the high-profile supporters, many media insiders feel that Farrow’s Pulitzer Prize-winning reporting on movie mogul Harvey Weinstein that helped launch the #MeToo movement will carry more weight than any of them.
“The allegations against Fager are particularly troubling for CBS given that Farrow's reporting is so respected throughout the industry,” The Hill media reporter Joe Concha told Fox News. “Moving forward, it's safe to say Fager is going to be subjected to the same intense scrutiny that '60 Minutes' has engaged in so effectively for the past 50 years.”
Back in June, journalist Irin Carmon told the crowd at the Mirror Awards – with Fager seated in the audience -- that “the system” still has the ability to get stories killed and “the system is sitting in this room.”
Fager told Farrow: “There’s a reason these awful allegations have not been published before — despite the efforts of a few former employees who did not succeed at ‘60 Minutes.’ It is because they are false, anonymous, and do not hold up to editorial scrutiny.”
Major sexual misconduct scandals have inundated the media industry in recent memory with former Fox News boss Roger Ailes, former NBC News star Matt Lauer, former CBS News star Charlie Rose and political pundit Mark Halperin among the high-profile media members who have already been accused of various harassment allegations.
“I think Farrow's report on CBS is just the tip of the iceberg and we should expect to see stories coming out about other networks enabling abuse,” Athey said.