In November, when The Washington Post blew up a series of horrific sexual misconduct allegations that have ended Charlie Rose’s career, the scandal caused shockwaves throughout the CBS Corporation, where Rose was the supposedly healthy co-host of the reputable television news series CBS this morning. Although CBS quickly fired the 70-year-old journalist, an inevitable blanket was thrown on the Tiffany Network just as the #MeToo movement was plunging into an epic cultural showdown.
CBS was at the epicenter. Over the next few months, feverish gossip began to swirl about reporters chasing stories of further bad behavior on the net. The To send dropped a second major investigation into Rose. And a senior CBS official was examined for keeping a law firm known for fighting #MeToo journalism. However, the worst was yet to come. On what otherwise would have been a dog day on a Friday afternoon in late July, The New Yorker published a long rumored Ronan Farrow complaint that updated CBS problems from tropical storm to category 5 hurricane: “Les Moonves and CBS face allegations of sexual misconduct.”
Moonves, the decorated captain of CBS Corporation’s $ 20 billion film, television and publishing fleet, was accused by six women of sexual harassment, including alleged unwanted actions and career retaliation, dating back to the 1980s and into the mid-1980s. years. (Moonves, who acknowledged in a statement that “there were moments ago decades when I may have made some women uncomfortable by making progress,” but said he “never abused my position to harm or hinder anyone’s career. “, joined CBS in 1995 and became CEO in 2003). Worse still, Moonves wasn’t the only influential CBS figure implicated in the story, in which Farrow reported: “Nineteen current and former employees told me that Jeff Fager, former president of CBS News and current executive producer of 60 minutes, allowed harassment in the division. “The crisis went down further on August 9, when To send media blogger Erik Wemple published a piece detailing “years of alleged abusive conduct” by ex 60 minutes senior producer Michael Radutzky. (He told Wemple he was unable to comment until the investigation was completed.)
This brings us to the present moment. No action has been taken against Moonves, who continues to run the company, as usual (albeit to the dismay of many within the media community). Ditto Fager, who returned to work earlier this week after a planned vacation 60 minutes was on break. (“It is wrong that our culture could be falsely defined by a few people with an ax to grind,” he said in a statement disputing the charges against him, “and not by the hundreds of women and men who have thrived, both personally and professionally, a 60 minutes.“)
With CBS gearing up for its fall television season – a high-risk time even without a corporate crisis hanging in the air – the fate of Moonves and Fager appears to be in the hands of two powerful law firms, Covington & Burling and Debevoise & Plimpton, who were commissioned by the CBS board of directors to conduct a wide-ranging internal cultural investigation. On Wednesday, the companies’ lawyers made their first opening to employees, encouraging them to come forward. “We welcome anyone with information, including documents, to share their work experience at CBS,” reads an email that was sent across the company and was described by people. who have seen it. (Several CBS executives are believed to have already made the pilgrimage.) I am told that the investigation is still in its infancy and is being closely monitored. Meanwhile, the board has quietly hired a strategic company, Abernathy MacGregor, to assist in communications management.
For CBS employees, particularly those within the company’s news division, it was a lot to process. “That’s all we talk about,” an insider told me, summing up the current mood. The questions that are raised by the watercoolers at 51 W. 52nd Street are exactly what one would expect: Moonves is done for? If he stays, what would he say about the company? If he left, who would take over? Will anyone else go down? And so on.
The scale of the scandal is undeniable: CBS has basically endured horrendous headlines all its life in just eight months. At the same time, CBS sources pointed out to me that the vast majority of the company’s 16,000 employees have not experienced or witnessed the kind of bad behavior that has come to light. That’s why, these sources say, many find it difficult to reconcile the place where they like to show up for work every day with the place represented by the press. “It’s complicated,” one network veteran told me. “On the one hand, there are people who say, ‘Why do we hear these things from news articles? Why don’t we find and solve our problems? ‘But then those same people say, “I’m proud to work for this company and angry that we’ve been painted with a large brush by strangers.” You could feel all of these emotions at once. “