After over three decades at CBS News, “60 Minutes” executive producer Jeff Fager was abruptly fired on Wednesday for what he said afterward was a single “harsh” text message to a CBS correspondent, a message which CBS has now released.
Just two days after the network announced that CEO Leslie Moonves was stepping down amid a series of #MeToo accusations, CBS News President David Rhodes revealed in a memo to network staff Wednesday that Fager had been fired. Rhodes noted that Fager’s firing “is not directly related to the allegations surfaced in press reports, which continue to be investigated independently,” a reference to sexual misconduct allegations against Fager. “However, he violated company policy and it is our commitment to uphold those policies at every level,” wrote Rhodes.
In response, Fager told CBS in a statement that, after 36 years, he was fired for a “harsh text” that he sent to another CBS reporter. The network “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,” he said. “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.”
A day later, the network released the text message and provided some context. On Sunday, CBS News correspondent Jericka Duncan “reached out to Fager for his response to allegations in The New Yorker that he had groped or touched CBS employees at company parties,” CBS reports. In response, Fager texted Duncan a strong warning:
If you repeat these false accusations without any of your own reporting to back them up you will be held responsible for harming me. Be careful. 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.
A New Yorker report claims that 19 current and former employees said that after drinking at office parties, Fager touched employees in ways that made them feel “uncomfortable” and that he promoted an environment that “shielded bad behavior” — allegations Fager denies. The New Yorker report published Sunday presented a claim from a new accuser, an intern at CBS in the early 2000s, who says he “groped her” at one of the work parties.
“This is an outrageous claim and it didn’t happen,” Fager said in response. “It is wrong.”