NEW YORK — CBS News on Wednesday fired “60 Minutes” top executive Jeff Fager, who has been under investigation following reports that he groped women at parties and tolerated an abusive workplace.
The network news president, David Rhodes, said Fager’s firing was “not directly related” to the allegations against him, but because he violated company policy. Fager said it was because of a text message he sent to a CBS News reporter who was covering the story about him.
“My language was harsh and, despite the fact that journalists receive harsh demands for fairness all the time, CBS did not like it,” Fager said.
The investigation into Fager by an outside law firm is not complete. Fager has denied charges made by former CBS employees in the New Yorker magazine of personal misbehavior at parties and not disciplining people under him who had misconduct issues.
Fager said he would not have thought that one note would have resulted in a dismissal after 36 years at the network, “but it did.” CBS had no immediate comment on his characterization of the action.
“60 Minutes” is the most popular and powerful network news broadcast on television, and Fager is only the second person to lead it during its 50 years of history. He was appointed in 2004 to succeed founding executive Don Hewitt.
He worked to modernize the broadcast and uphold its standards during a changing of the guard from the show’s original cast of figures like Mike Wallace, Morley Safer and Andy Rooney.
His firing came only three days after the CBS Corp. board ousted the company’s chief executive, Leslie Moonves, who was charged with sexual misconduct in the same New Yorker articles.
Fager and Rhodes had worked for several years as a team, when Fager was appointed CBS News chairman by Moonves. Rhodes was then brought in as news president, taking over full management of the news division when Fager went back to solely running “60 Minutes.”
Fager’s second in command at “60 Minutes,” Bill Owens, will run the show while a search is conducted for a permanent replacement, Rhodes said. The show debuts a new season on Sept. 30.
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