CBS is still being haunted by the past of “60 Minutes.”
The company has been paying a former female CBS News employee millions of dollars over the last 20 years to settle claims that she was sexually assaulted by “60 Minutes” creator Don Hewitt, according to an investigative report.
The incident happened in the late 1990s when Hewitt was still executive producer of the storied newsmagazine, according to a person familiar with the report who was not authorized to comment. The woman is said to have received more than $5 million since reaching a settlement with the company’s lawyers — an agreement that has stretched well past Hewitt’s death in 2009.
A CBS News representative declined to comment on the settlement, which was revealed in a New York Times report Thursday about the ongoing investigation into alleged sexual harassment and misconduct in the company and by former Chief Executive Leslie Moonves, who was fired on Sept. 9.
Two high-powered law firms have been conducting the inquiry since August and will report their findings — including the payout to Hewitt’s accuser — to the CBS board next week. An earlier leak of their findings said they had concluded that CBS board members were justified to fire Moonves for cause — denying him any severance pay.
The latest leak focused on the investigation into alleged misconduct at “60 Minutes,” which Hewitt helped create in 1968 and oversaw until 2004, when Jeff Fager took over the reins of the top-rated program. Fager was under investigation after allegations of inappropriate workplace behavior when he was fired on Sept. 12.
He was ousted after sending a threatening text message to CBS News correspondent Jericka Duncan, who was working on a piece following up on #MeToo-related reporting in the New Yorker, which included allegations against him.
In the draft of the lawyers’ report leaked to the New York Times, investigators said the firing was justified. They cited several instances in which Fager behaved inappropriately with colleagues, including one in which he is accused of groping a female CBS employee. The report also alleged he tried to give another employee an open-mouth kiss at a corporate event. Additionally, the report said Fager failed to respond to employee complaints about bullying by two producers who worked under him.
The draft document said “60 Minutes” had become a more hospitable workplace for women in recent years. More women had been promoted to senior producing roles and Fager had been supportive of them.
Nonetheless, investigators concluded Fager or other CBS News executives currently at the network were not aware of the extent of the inappropriate conduct by former “CBS This Morning” co-anchor Charlie Rose. Rose was fired in 2017 following numerous allegations that he sexually harassed female employees who worked on his PBS talk show.
In response to the report, Fager sent an email statement saying he “tried hard to make ‘60 Minutes’ an excellent workplace for everyone. We built a broadcast made up of fine men and women who do quality work. It hasn’t always been perfect and, like anyone who has been in a leadership position, there are things I would do differently, including the angry text I sent to a CBS reporter. My intent was only to demand fairness in the coverage of a news story, but I regret the manner in which I accomplished that.”
Fager also said he was “surprised and devastated” to learn of allegations about his personal conduct through the New York Times report “since I was not given the opportunity by CBS investigators to respond to their accuracy.”
Fager has yet to be replaced at “60 Minutes,” as the division has waited for the results of the investigation before filling the role. Bill Owens, the program’s executive editor, has been overseeing the operation since Fager’s departure and is a candidate for the position. Susan Zirinsky, executive producer of the newsmagazine “48 Hours,” is the other major contender for the post.