60 Minutes executive producer Jeff Fager is leaving CBS amidst allegations that he sexually harassed employees and presided over and encouraged a “frat house” culture there.
“Jeff Fager is leaving the company effective immediately,” CBS News president David Rhodes told staff in an email. “Bill Owens will manage the 60 Minutes team as Ingrid Ciprian-Matthews and I begin the search for a new executive producer of the program.” He added that Fager’s departure from CBS “is not directly related to the allegations surfaced in press reports, which continue to be investigated independently. However, he violated company policy and it is our commitment to uphold those policies at every level.”
Fager echoed that in a statement, saying that his leaving had nothing to do with The New Yorker‘s explosive articles on sexual harassment at CBS under Les Moonves, but rather had to do with him sending a text message to an unidentified CBS reporter “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,” he wrote. “One such note should not result in termination after 36 years, but it did.”
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) September 12, 2018
This comes just days after Fager’s boss Moonves left the company following the aforementioned New Yorker articles by Ronan Farrow, in which Moonves was accused of sexually harassing and assaulting multiple women, as well as retaliating against them professionally if they rebuffed his advances.
In the first article, which was published in late July, six former employees told Farrow that Fager touched employees in ways that made them uncomfortable at company parties. He also was accused of protecting men accused of misconduct. One former female senior producer said that Fager promoted a senior producer who had been physically abusive toward her and advised her to not go to human resources with her concerns; he also allegedly told her to apologize to the other producer to “mitigate conflict in the office.”
Fager responded to those accusations at the time saying, “It is wrong that our culture can be falsely defined by a few people with an axe to grind who are using an important movement as a weapon to get even, and not by the hundreds of women and men that have thrived, both personally and professionally, at 60 Minutes.” He went on to say the accusations were “false, anonymous, and do not hold up to editorial scrutiny.”
Then in Farrow’s followup article on CBS and Moonves last week, there were even more allegations that Fager had groped a producer at a work party, and “seemed to encourage” a frat house atmosphere:
In a new allegation against Fager, Sarah Johansen, a producer who was an intern at CBS in the late aughts, said that he groped her at a work party. Johansen told me that she felt compelled to speak because she simply “can’t believe he’s back there.” Johansen told me that, when she was growing up, outside a small town in Denmark, “I had really idolized ‘60 Minutes’ since I was young. I can’t possibly overstate how much it meant to me, even just to be an intern.” She said that, upon arriving at the program, she was thrilled by the work but troubled by the culture. Like several others, she used the term “boy’s club” to describe the atmosphere. “I really felt like this was one of the most sexist places I’ve ever worked,” she said.
Johansen said that she had contact with Fager on only two occasions. The first, she said, was at a work party at a bar near the CBS News offices in Manhattan. She was in a group of co-workers when, “all of a sudden, I felt a hand on my ass,” she said. “The hand belonged to an arm which belonged to Jeff Fager.” Another producer told her it was colloquially referred to by women on the team as “the Fager arm,” which several said they were mindful to avoid at parties. “I was shocked,” Johansen said. “His hand should not be anywhere near his intern’s ass.” She said the contact was “more like a stroke. It wasn’t just a ‘Hey, what’s up?’ ” She didn’t think Fager was propositioning her, and interpreted the move as “a power trip.” She told me, “When he grabbed my ass, it was just, like, ‘Welcome to “60 Minutes.” You’re one of us now.’ ” She recalled making eye contact with Fager, laughing and walking away quickly. But she was troubled enough by the incident that, shortly afterward, she told a male producer, who corroborated her story. On the one other occasion when Johansen interacted with Fager directly, she and a fellow-intern invited him to lunch. She was excited that he accepted. “What does that say about me that he does that and then I still say, Ohh, I want to have lunch with the big boss?” she asked. “I hate myself for that. But I just wanted to be a producer.” Fager declined to comment on the allegation.
The initial allegations also included claims by nineteen current and former employees that Fager had tolerated harassment in the division. A number described the environment at “60 Minutes” under Fager’s leadership as “a frat house.” One producer, Habiba Nosheen, said that the program had a “Mad Men” culture. She and several others said that senior male members of the “60 Minutes” team asked about their sex lives and suggested they flirt with sources. One former employee said older male producers at the show greeted her by kissing her on the mouth and touching her rear end, and told me that Fager “seemed to encourage” the climate.
With Fager back at work, “people are now worried about reprisals, since the articles didn’t do much, it seems,” one “60 Minutes” producer told me, referring to the story in the New Yorker and a subsequent article in the Washington Post accusing Fager of tolerating abusive behavior by other male producers. “Until the networks change the power structure at the top, I won’t feel safe speaking out,” another producer told me.
Fager had been at CBS for nearly 36 years, and was previously the chairman of CBS News. He became executive producer at 60 Minutes in 2003.