Published 10:04 PM EDT Sep 12, 2018
CBS News fired "60 Minutes" executive producer Jeff Fager Wednesday, just three days after CBS CEO Leslie Moonves resigned following a new round of sexual assault and harassment accusations made against him.
In a memo to staff, CBS News chief David Rhodes says Fager's departure is not connected to Sunday's New Yorker story, which alleged that he allowed sexual harassment and misconduct to go on in his division.
"The 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 these policies at every level," Rhodes writes.
Later Wednesday, the CBS Evening News reported the contents of the text message Fager sent to a CBS News reporter that appears to be the source of that policy violation. In a statement, Fager said a "harsh" text message, not The New Yorker allegations, was the reason for his dismissal.
In the text to reporter Jericka Duncan, Fager wrote: "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 a late July report, Pulitzer Prize winner Ronan Farrow wrote that 19 current and former employees had alleged that Fager, former chairman of CBS News, had allowed sexual harassment in the division, enabling misconduct by correspondent Charlie Rose and other male staffers in an atmosphere some likened to a "frat house."
Farrow's stories also accused Fager himself of improper behavior, including commenting on one woman's breasts and "becoming belligerent when she rebuffed him" and drunkenly hitting on female staffers at company parties.
In a statement to USA TODAY, Fager said The New Yorker allegations are "false."
CBS News tweeted the news of Fager's departure announcement Wednesday. Bill Owens, who has served as executive editor, will manage the acclaimed newsmagazine while CBS looks for a new executive producer.
"JUST IN: '60 Minutes Executive Producer Jeff Fager is leaving CBS News effective immediately. Bill Owens, who had served as Executive Editor, will manage the "60 Minutes" team as CBS leadership searches for a new executive producer of the program."
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n Fager's statement, obtained by USA TODAY, he said one harsh text message shouldn't outweigh 36 years of service.
"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."
Contributing: Associated Press