Jeff Fager, executive producer of "60 Minutes," was forced out of CBS Wednesday in the wake of a pair of New Yorker articles alleging that he inappropriately touched female staffers and allowed a culture of harassment at the TV news magazine.
However, in an internal memo, CBS News president David Rhodes said: “This action today is not directly related to the allegations surfaced in press reports, "but instead said Fager had "violated company policy and it is our commitment to uphold those policies at every level."
In his own statement, Fager said: “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. 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.”
On Wednesday's "CBS Evening News," correspondent Jericka Duncan said she had earlier sought out Fager to comment about the New Yorker stories, which had reported he had groped or touched employees at CBS parties. She said he had responded, saying: "If you repeat these false accusations without any of your own reporting to back them up you will be held responsible for harming me. Be careful. There are people who lost their jobs trying to harm me and if you pass on these damaging claims without your own reporting to back them up that will become a serious problem."
In early August, The New Yorker published a lengthy story about several women who accused CBS CEO Leslie Moonves of sexual harassment, but also reported that Fager, 63, "had touched employees at company parties in ways that made them feel uncomfortable." In that story, the magazine also reported that Fager was alleged to have "protected men accused of misconduct, including men who reported to him." At the time, Fager denied the report.
Moonves stepped down Sunday.
The New Yorker published a second story on new harassment allegations against Moonves this Sunday. In that story, reporter Ronan Farrow quoted a producer, Sarah Johansen, who had been an intern at CBS in "the late aughts" when Fager "groped" her at a work party. "All of a sudden, I felt a hand,” she told the magazine. “The hand belonged to an arm which belonged to Jeff Fager."
After the first New Yorker article, CBS announced that it would launch an internal investigation of the charges and would make personnel moves pending completion.
Rhodes said he would launch a search for a permanent replacement of Fager, who spent most of his career at "60 Minutes" and was only the second executive producer in its history, after Don Hewitt. Hewitt, who died in 2009, launched "60 Minutes" in 1968.