By: Richard Prince, "Journal-isms"

Jeff Fager, only the second person in 50 years to oversee CBS-TV’s “60 Minutes,” was fired September 12, 2018, for allegedly sending a text message that threatened the career of CBS reporter Jericka Duncan.

Duncan, a prominent anchor/reporter, was looking into allegations of sexual harassment leveled against Fager and the network’s recently dismissed chief executive, Leslie Moonves.

John Koblin and Michael M. Grynbaum
reported the news for the New York Times.

“CBS News had put together a team, including Duncan, to report out the allegations against Mr. Moonves and others. Fager replied to an inquiry from Ms. Duncan by warning her to ‘be careful,’ ” they 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,’ Mr. Fager wrote in a text message, which CBS News aired on Sept. 13 ‘Evening News’ in a segment reported by Duncan.

Duncan revealed the contents of the text message on the “CBS Evening News” on Sept. 13, “since Jeff Fager publicly referred to our exchange.”

Anchor Jeff Glor said when she finished her report, “You have been on this since the beginning. You have done great work. It’s difficult enough without dealing with this. That message was unacceptable. I think it’s important for you to know…that the entire team at Evening News supports you 100 percent.”

Veteran “60 Minutes” correspondent Steve Kroft called Fager’s message to Duncan threatening and inappropriate.

CBS reported, “In July, six former CBS News employees told The New Yorker that Fager ‘would touch employees in ways that made them uncomfortable’ after drinking at office parties. The article said 19 current and former employees said Fager enabled a culture that shielded bad behavior.’

“Fager vehemently denied all of those claims. He continued to come to work.
The New Yorker reported that a new accuser said ‘she “felt compelled to speak because she simply “can’t believe [Fager is] back there.'” The article described her as ‘a producer who was an intern at CBS’ in the early 2000s who said that ‘he groped her at a work party.’

“In response to that allegation, Fager told CBS News, ‘This is an outrageous claim and it didn’t happen. It is wrong.’

The Times’ Koblin and Grynbaum also reported, “inside the ’60 Minutes’ offices, across West 57th Street from the rest of CBS News, there was shock when the news of Mr. Fager’s firing landed in inboxes at 1:31 p.m. Several people were in tears.

“‘This action today is not directly related to the allegations surfaced in press reports, which continue to be investigated independently,’ [CBS News president David Rhodes wrote in his memo. ‘However, he violated company policy, and it is our commitment to uphold those policies at every level.’

“Mr. Fager did not have a chance to address his staff, and a staff meeting with Rhodes quickly turned into something of an aggressive news conference.

“Several people, including the correspondent Bill Whitaker, pointedly questioned Rhodes about why this infraction was serious enough to merit Fager’s immediate dismissal. They wondered why it could not be folded into the larger investigation happening at CBS. . . .”

The Times reporters also wrote, “By Wednesday afternoon, before the ‘Evening News’ report aired, more than 60 members of the ’60 Minutes’ staff — including the building’s security guard — had joined Mr. Fager for drinks at P. J. Clarke’s by Lincoln Center, the show’s regular haunt.

“People were teary-eyed as they showered Mr. Fager with praise and hugs. Several said they were concerned that “60 Minutes” could be dismantled under new leadership.

“‘Jeff Fager is a wonderful boss,’ Mr. Whitaker said, looking somber on a bar stool. ‘So much of the magic of “60 Minutes” is because of him. He treats his staff as adults. He trusts his people.’ . . .”

Quoting media sites, the website reports that Duncan, 35, a 2005 graduate of Ohio University, “preferred to stay in CBS and work as a part of that network specifically due to her father Ronnie Duncan’s previous ties with the company. He worked as a sports director for CBS, and is likely the reason she developed an interest for news and working on television.

“Her father didn’t enjoy the same publicity she has now, and was mainly in the background of CBS, helping the company specifically in its sports-related programming. She is also very close to several of the network’s executives, thanks to her father’s ties. . . .”

Separately, quoting “sources,” Cynthia Littleton and Daniel Holloway reported for Variety that “Former Turner Broadcasting CEO John Martin and newly added CBS board member Richard Parsons have emerged as two top external candidates for the chief-executive role” vacated by Moonves.

Parsons, former chairman of Citigroup and former chairman and CEO of Time Warner, has been one of the highest ranking African-Americans in corporate America.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Renowned journalist Richard Prince occasionally submits his "Journal-isms" column to "Media Matters." Prince's "Journal-isms" originates from Washington, D.C.