The top executives of long-running CBS News show 60 Minutes created a culture where bullying, verbal abuse and sexual harassment thrived, according to an investigative report by two prominent law firms.
The New York Times reported today on a leaked draft copy of the report, detailing the allegations against the executives. It arrives as embattled CBS is still reeling more than two months after chief executive Leslie Moonves was ousted because of sexual misconduct allegations. That situation created a heightened awareness of problematic issues that later led to 60 Minutes executive producer Jeff Fager’s dismissal.
The story hit during the CBS holiday party, adding another unusual element to the annual ritual. For the first time in decades, the party was held outside of “Black Rock,” the company’s iconic Sixth Avenue headquarters. Months ago, a decision was made to relocate the event to Brasserie 8 1/2, a restaurant on 57th Street with an appropriately Fellini-esque name.
CBS staffers were passing around cell phones with the Times story and exchanging grimaces as they processed the news. “I heard this was coming,” one employee told a Deadline reporter. “Do you think they timed it to hit right now? Happy holidays.”
In the draft report for the board revealed today by the Times, investigators wrote that “the physical, administrative and cultural separation between 60 Minutes and the rest of CBS News permitted misconduct by some 60 Minutes employees.”
The report will be presented to the CBS board next week. The board hired law firms Debevoise & Plimpton and Covington & Burling to investigate Moonves, 60 Minutes and CBS News. The report will advise the board on whether Moonves will receive a reported $120 million severance package, or will be terminated for cause and get nothing.
Earlier, The Times reported the firms’ draft report said Moonves was fired for cause. However, the final report could adjust its findings.
In this latest revelation, investigators said the firing of 60 Minutes EP Fager, who was dismissed in September for threatening a CBS News reporter looking into his behavior, was justified. The report indicates Fager “engaged in certain acts of sexual misconduct” with colleagues and didn’t stop other people’s bad behaviors.
The report indicated that the alleged abuses during Fager’s tenure as executive producer were less severe than his predecessor, Don Hewitt. Still, the report cited several instances when Fager allegedly “engaged in some type of sexually inappropriate conduct” toward a CBS employee.
One incident mentioned in the report happened in 2009, when a woman claimed Fager groped her. Another CBS News employee claimed that Fager tried to kiss her with an open mouth during a corporate event. A third instance cited in the report claimed a female employee was told to drive Fager and other producers to a legal brothel while reporting a story in Nevada.
Hewitt, who created 60 Minutes in 1968 and produced it for 36 years, was also mentioned in the report. The investigation said CBS is still paying out a settlement to a woman who claimed that Hewitt sexually assaulted her on repeated occasions. That settlement has been amended multiple times since it was initiated in the 1990s, including this year. CBS has reportedly agreed to pay the former employee more than $5 million. Hewitt died in 2009.
CBS declined to comment to the Times on the allegations of the draft report, as did a representative for the board.
“This is the first I am hearing some of these allegations about my personal conduct,” Fager wrote in an email to the Times. “I’m surprised and devastated to hear them from The New York Times since I was not given the opportunity by CBS investigators to respond to their accuracy.”
The investigation also claimed Fager failed to handle accusations of bullying against Michael Radutzky, a former senior producer on 60 Minutes, and harassment claims against Ira Rosen, currently a producer on the show.
Radutzky is accused in the report of being “abusive, screamed and threw objects at other ‘60 Minutes’ staff.” Fager tolerated it, the report said, because Radutzky was an “extraordinarily talented” producer.”
Radutzky issued a statement on the report: “Some people may have found me difficult, but I was committed not only to getting the story but getting it first and getting it right. In that intense environment, I’m sure I said things that may have been hurtful to my colleagues. Now, with some distance, I regret the toll that it took on all of us.”
Rosen, in the report, is accused of occasionally making “inappropriate sexual comments to his female subordinates, such as asking them to twirl, and encouraging them to use their sex appeal to secure information from sources.”
Fager was also aware of the Rosen allegations but took no action. Rosen has denied the report’s allegations but refused to comment further to the Times on this story.
The report did say Fager “demonstrated sensitivity and support for working women” in more recent years. The investigators recommended that 60 Minutes make its next executive producer directly report to the president of CBS News for greater accountability. Fager reported directly to Moonves in the prior arrangement.
“We note that the misconduct of individual ‘60 Minutes’ employees, including Mr. Fager and Mr. Rosen, should not have been tolerated, but we find that it was not as severe as the media accounts or as severe as the sexual misconduct that occurred during the Don Hewitt era at ‘60 Minutes,’” the investigators said.
Dade Hayes contributed to this story