Six weeks ago, The New Yorker published an explosive story from Ronan Farrow in which in which six woman accused CBS Corp. chairman and CEO Les Moonves of sexual harassment and intimidation going back several decades, and 19 current and former staffers said that 60 Minutes executive producer Jeff Fager enabled harassment at CBS News.
It was time for Round 2 this morning, as The New Yorker published a follow-up story from Farrow in which six additional women allege sexual assault and harassment on the part of Moonves, and a former CBS intern alleges that Fager groped her at a work party.
Farrow spoke to producer Sarah Johansen, who was a CBS intern in the late aughts and said Fager groped her at a work party. Johansen said she decided to speak up because she “can’t believe he’s back there,” and called 60 Minutes “one of the most sexist places I’ve ever worked.”
As Farrow writes,
Johansen said that she had contact with Fager on only two occasions. The first, she said, was at a work party at a bar near the CBS News offices in Manhattan. She was in a group of co-workers when, “all of a sudden, I felt a hand on my ass,” she said. “The hand belonged to an arm which belonged to Jeff Fager.” Another producer told her it was colloquially referred to by women on the team as “the Fager arm,” which several said they were mindful to avoid at parties. “I was shocked,” Johansen said. “His hand should not be anywhere near his intern’s ass.” She said the contact was “more like a stroke. It wasn’t just a ‘Hey, what’s up?’ ” She didn’t think Fager was propositioning her, and interpreted the move as “a power trip.” She told me, “When he grabbed my ass, it was just, like, ‘Welcome to “60 Minutes.” You’re one of us now.’ ” She recalled making eye contact with Fager, laughing and walking away quickly. But she was troubled enough by the incident that, shortly afterward, she told a male producer, who corroborated her story. On the one other occasion when Johansen interacted with Fager directly, she and a fellow-intern invited him to lunch. She was excited that he accepted. “What does that say about me that he does that and then I still say, Ohh, I want to have lunch with the big boss?” she asked. “I hate myself for that. But I just wanted to be a producer.” Fager declined to comment on the allegation.
In early August, Fager did not return from his scheduled vacation, after hearing that an investigation into alleged harassment at CBS News was about to conclude.
But then the CBS board, which hired two law firms to investigate the allegations raised within Farrow’s first story—including Moonves, CBS News and the overall company culture—decided to merge that earlier investigation with the new one.
Fager discussed the investigation in a statement to Farrow, which appears in today’s story: “I have encouraged everyone at 60 Minutes to speak to the lawyers reviewing our culture with the hope that our entire staff would have a voice, and the truth would come out about our workplace. It was at the center of my talk to the staff when we returned from vacation because I believe that a fair and open investigation will determine 60 Minutes is a good place where talented women and men thrive and produce some of the finest broadcast journalism in America.”
Since Fager returned to work last month, “people are now worried about reprisals, since the articles didn’t do much, it seems,” a 60 Minutes producer told Farrow, referring to his first New Yorker story and a follow-up in the Washington Post.
Farrow’s story was published as CBS is reportedly close to a settlement that will cut ties with Moonves, and end the company’s lawsuit with parent company National Amusements. Those talks—which have been underway for more than a week—are expected to be completed by tomorrow morning, according to CNBC.