Jeff Fager, the veteran executive producer of “60 Minutes,” is departing amid accusations of inappropriate conduct at the acclaimed newsmagazine.
“Jeff Fager is leaving the company effective immediately,” CBS News president David Rhodes said in a memo to staffers on Wednesday.
Rhodes said that Fager’s longtime No. 2, Bill Owens, will manage the “60 Minutes” team while a search is underway “for a new executive producer of the program.”
Rhodes said in his memo that “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.”
CBS News declined to elaborate on what “company policy” Fager violated. But in a statement to CNN, Fager said CBS “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,” he said in the statement. “One such note should not result in termination after 36 years, but it did.”
Allegations against Fager, reported by Ronan Farrow in The New Yorker, included unwanted touching. Fager staunchly denied the allegations.
When the story came out in July, he said Farrow’s sources — a “few people,” he claimed — had an “axe to grind.”
But Farrow had numerous sources, including six former employees who said that “Fager, while inebriated at company parties, would touch employees in ways that made them uncomfortable.”
Farrow also cited “nineteen current and former employees” who said Fager “allowed harassment in the division.”
In the same story, Farrow published allegations about harassment and assault by CBS Corporation CEO Les Moonves, a close ally of Fager’s.
Both men were defiant after the story was published. They remained in their positions while law firms hired by CBS investigated the allegations.
Farrow continued reporting. He heard from additional women who lodged serious accusations against Moonves. Farrow’s follow-up story, published on Sunday, also included a new allegation against Fager.
Moonves had already been in exit talks with CBS. By the end of the day on Sunday, he was officially out as CEO.
Sources at CBS News said there was a consensus that the network couldn’t take action in the Fager case until the Moonves case was settled. After all, Moonves was the ultimate boss.
On Monday, the day after the Moonves announcement, Fager was not at work — a fact that raised eyebrows inside “60 Minutes” and CBS News.
On Wednesday, Rhodes’ memo invoked the name of the company’s acting CEO, Joe Ianniello.
He said “Ianniello is in full support of this decision and the transition to come.”