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‘60 Minutes’ executive Jeff Fager ousted amid sexual misconduct allegations
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A powerful network television news corporation has ousted one of its most unethical execs.
Jeff Fager, a top executive for the CBS program 60 Minutes, was fired on Wednesday after the network learned that he threatened CBS News reporter Jericka Duncan for reporting on accusations of sexual misconduct that had been lodged against him. Fager reportedly told Duncan to “be careful” or she would face “a serious problem.”
Duncan’s in-house investigation began after a New Yorker report claimed that Fager “touched employees at company parties in ways that made them feel uncomfortable,” in addition to accusations from 19 “current and former employees that Fager had tolerated harassment in the division.” In various interviews with producer and staff, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Ronan Farrow learned that Fager’s leadership was described as “a frat house,” and a “boy’s club” which perpetuated a “Mad Men” culture of misogyny.
One of the women who has accused Fager of inappropriate touching is former CBS intern Sarah Johansen, who said she “really felt like this was one of the most sexist places [she’d] ever worked.” Fager’s sexual assaults were so frequent, in fact, that the women who regularly endured his abusive groping even had a nickname for their supervisor’s offending appendage: “the Fager arm.”
But Fager wasn’t issued his walking papers because of these allegations, which he strongly denies. The former CBS News chairman was let go because of the way in which he responded to Duncan’s request for an interview. In a text message sent to the CBS reporter, Fager wrote:
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.
Over his head
Apparently, Fager still doesn’t see how his remarks constituted a threat. In a Wednesday statement addressing them, Fager explained that his “language was harsh, and despite the fact that journalists receive harsh demands for fairness all the time, CBS did not like it.”
But Fager’s excuse that he was simply demanding journalistic excellence from a reporter belied the hostile nature of his rebuke. Ignoring the ongoing sexual misconduct investigation against him, the CBS executive said that he didn’t think that his run-in with Duncan should have cost him his job after 36 years with the network news giant, “but it did.”
And Fager’s colleagues don’t seem to think that he deserves a second chance. After Duncan’s investigative report was broadcasted, evening news anchor Jeff Glor reassured her that Fager’s message was “unacceptable,” and that she had the support of all of her coworkers and supervisors.
60 Minutes icon Steve Croft weighed in as well, criticizing Fager’s menacing message.
“It’s unfortunate,” he said, “and everything about this situation saddens me.”
Fall from grace
Fager is just the latest senior CBS executive to lose his job and face legal scrutiny after receiving multiple allegations of inappropriate sexual behavior. While the CBS board of directors was negotiating a healthy severance package for CEO Les Moonves after six women accused him of sexual harassment, new details emerged about Moonves forcing oral sex and sexually assaulting a different set of victims, prompting the network to demand the disgraced industry magnate’s immediate exit earlier this month.
Iconic interviewer Charlie Rose was also fired in November, the day after a Washington Post report discovered an astounding 27 women who forwarded sexual harassment claims going back to 1987. Besides groping, Rose was accused of exposing himself and “making lewd phone calls” to his victims.
The #MeToo movement precipitated a domino effect of fallen giants. From Capitol Hill to Hollywood, and from the studios of major network and cable media to Silicon Valley, men once idolized by the masses have found themselves publicly scorned and forced to retire to a life of disgrace and virtual anonymity.
Fager, like so many before him, is currently getting better than he deserves from CBS, who will surely reward him with a generous severance package for his crimes. But for now, we can only hope that Fager will soon be held accountable for his actions in the courtroom — not just in the headlines.
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