UPDATED with CBS and Gavshon responses: Cassandra Vinograd, a London-based associate producer with 60 Minutes, has sued CBS Broadcasting for allegedly retaliating against her after she complained about the conduct of her boss, producer Michael Gavshon.
CBS News said later this afternoon it is reviewing the action and it “plans to vigorously defend against this lawsuit.”
According to the suit, senior producer Michael Gavshon frequently consumed large amounts of alcohol, berated junior staffers and behaved erratically. On one occasion mentioned in the filing, Gavshon allegedly texted Vinograd a decades-old photograph showing Gavshon and a friend smiling and urinating on a fire. Gavshon followed that text with another message insisting he sent the image to Vinograd by mistake, instead of to his sister, the intended recipient.
Vinograd says that when she informed the human resources department at CBS about Gavshon’s behavior, they responded by ostracizing and punishing her. Gavshon today released his own statement saying he reported the incident after sending the photo, and “I continue to regret this mistake and sincerely apologize for it.”
“CBS remains committed to insulating and protecting powerful men – the ‘talent’ – at the expense of its female employees,” the complaint says. “Despite paying lip service about purging men that behave badly and assuring female employees that their voices will be heard, respected and protected, this case shows that nothing has changed and legitimate progress towards eliminating sexual harassment at CBS remains elusive.”
Senior executives at CBS News, the complaint alleges, “ratified his personal vendetta by willingly sending temporary associate producers to replace Cassie and work with Gavshon.”
Said CBS News in a statement Tuesday: “CBS thoroughly and immediately investigated the matter in accordance with its policies. Subsequently, Ms. Vinograd asked to no longer work with Mr. Gavshon and CBS has made every reasonable effort to honor this request. CBS News vehemently denies there was any retaliation.”
Gavshon also released a statement:
At the end of September, I was speaking to my sister in Johannesburg on Whatsapp. She and my elderly mother had returned from the funeral of a childhood friend. We were reminiscing and we decided to share some pictures of him. I sent her a picture of me with my friend who had just died and two others burning our school notebooks after our final high school exams. I was 17 years old at the time. In the photo, my friend who passed away and I were urinating on the fire – it was an act of immature adolescent rebellion 46 years ago.
An hour later, to my horror, I realized that I not only sent it to my sister, but I had accidentally included my colleague, Cassandra Vinograd, the associate producer with whom I work at 60 Minutes in London. I immediately deleted the picture and apologized profusely. I was mortified. The following day I went in early and reported the incident. I cooperated with an investigation by the company and was told not to come into work during the course of the investigation. I continue to regret this mistake and sincerely apologize for it.
I also want to refute Ms. Vinograd’s allegations regarding drinking and add that I have an established record of responsible behavior at work over the last thirty years.
The lawsuit treads on sensitive ground for CBS, which just completed its long-awaited merger with Viacom. CBS spent the latter months of 2018 and the better part of 2019 reshaping itself and purging several longtime veterans, including former 60 Minutes executive producer Jeff Fager and CBS This Morning anchor Charlie Rose. A large part of the 29-page complaint lays out that corporate context, including the #MeToo movement’s rise in 2017 and the ouster of former CEO Les Moonves amid allegations of assault and misconduct by more than a dozen women.