Jeff Fager, the longtime executive producer of “60 Minutes” and a top figure in the TV-news business, is leaving the venerable newsmagazine, CBS News said Wednesday. The company said Fager “violated company policy,” but declined to elaborate.
He steps down from one of the top perches in journalism just weeks before it is scheduled to kick off its 51st season on air on Sunday. September 30.
Fager has been under scrutiny for months, along with CBS Corp., the parent of CBS News. The news unit has been besieged by a set of allegations about sexual harassment and the culture of the company ever since former “CBS This Morning” anchor Charlie Rose was terminated after multiple accusations of sexual misconduct were levied at him last year. A blockbuster article in the New Yorker by journalist Ronan Farrow published in August cited interviews with 19 current and former CBS employees who claimed Fager (pictured. above), only the second executive producer of “60 Minutes” and a former chairman of the news division, turned a deaf ear to instances of harassment even as three financial settlements paid to employees of the newsmagazine were related to allegations of discrimination or harassment. A September report by the magazine detailed an allegation by one woman who accused Fager of groping her at a company event.
“This action today 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. Joe Ianniello is in full support of this decision and the transition to come,” said CBS News President David Rhodes in a statement Wednesday, referring to Joe Ianniello, the interim CEO of CBS Corp.
In a statement, Fager said the reason for his departure was related to a communication between him and a staffer. “The company’s decision had nothing to do with the false allegations printed in The New Yorker. Instead, they terminated my contract early because I sent a text message to one of our own CBS reporters demanding that she be fair in covering the story,” Fager said. ” My language was harsh and, despite the fact that journalists receive harsh demands for fairness all the time, CBS did not like it. One such note should not result in termination after 36 years, but it did.”
Fager steps down from the program – a cornerstone of the schedule of the CBS broadcast network – as CBS Corp. reels from the departure of its longtime CEO and chairman, Leslie Moonves. Moonves was ousted Sunday after reports in The New Yorker detailed allegations of sexual misconduct against him by multiple women over a period of 20 years. Moonves has acknowledged some of the encounters with the women, but denied many of the accusations.
Bill Owens, Fager’s longtime deputy, will manage the program for the time being, said Rhodes. But Rhodes and Ingrid Ciprian-Matthews, the CBS News executive vice president who oversees the unit’s day to day operations will “begin the search for a new executive producer of the program,” he said, calling the newsmagazine “the most significant news broadcast on television. We are fortunate to have incredibly talented journalists in place whom we know will continue to deliver our defining investigative work.” The note suggests CBS News is willing to look outside of the company for a new executive to oversee the program.
CBS can’t afford a bad choice. “60 Minutes” is a landmark program whose fortunes are tied to the company’s long history. The newsmagazine drew an average of 11.5 million people last season and typically spends the bulk of the TV season among TV’s most-watched programs. The show hit a high note last season, adding Oprah Winfrey to its roster of contributors and running a joint investigation with The Washington Post about Congress undermining efforts to stop flow of opioids to the United. States that resulted in a rebuke of President Trump’s candidate to take the reins of the nation’s anti-drug effort. Over the decades “60 Minutes” has given TV viewers aggressive, first-hand looks at the Vietnam War and wrongdoing by the tobacco industry. Getting on staff there is considered a career achievement for anyone in the TV-news business.
Fager had his supporters at the show, who pointed out the number of women on staff and on air has increased since he succeeded legendary producer Don Hewitt at the program in 2004. He is also known for steering CBS News back to a hard-news positioning after being named chairman of the unit in 2011. During that time, CBS swapped out Katie Couric at “CBS Evening News” for Scott Pelley and launched a new “CBS This Morning” that avoided the frillier trapping of rival morning programs.