The tenure of Jeff Fager as the executive producer of 60 Minutes is over.
"Jeff Fager is leaving the company effective immediately," CBS News president David Rhodes said Wednesday in a statement. "Bill Owens will manage the 60 Minutes team as Ingrid Ciprian-Matthews and I begin the search for a new executive producer of the program. 60 Minutes is the most significant news broadcast on television."
Added Rhodes: "We are fortunate to have incredibly talented journalists in place who we know will continue to deliver our defining investigative work. 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 acting CEO] Joe Ianniello is in full support of this decision and the transition to come."
A CBS News spokesperson declined to identify the company policy Fager violated, but Fager shed light on it in a statement of his own: “The company’s decision had nothing to do with the false allegations printed in The New Yorker. Instead, they 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. One such note should not result in termination after 36 years, but it did.”
Meanwhile, Rhodes made the trip across West 57th Street on Wednesday afternoon to talk to a shell-shocked 60 Minutes staff. (The 60 offices are housed across the street from CBS News headquarters.) He was peppered with questions about what policy Fager had violated, but he would not (or could not) say. Many employees wanted to know why they would not simply wait for the results of the investigation being conducted by two outside law firms. In the middle of what sources describe as a tense hourlong session, Fager's statement came out. And someone in the room read it aloud, said a person who was present.
Fager has not been in the office since last week. He was out on previously scheduled days off on Monday and Tuesday. He was due back today, but he never made it, and sources tell THR that his CBS News email was quickly terminated.
Fager's departure comes days after a New Yorker story by Ronan Farrow included a new claim of misconduct leveled at the exec. "Sarah Johansen, a producer who was an intern at CBS in the late aughts, said that he groped her at a work party," Farrow reported in the Sept. 9 story.
Fager, 63, has been at CBS News for 36 years and has been a leading figure at the news division for decades. He joined the network in 1982 after a short stint at WBZ, the CBS station in Boston. He was the executive producer of CBS Evening News with Dan Rather for a few years in the mid-1990s. But his most significant contribution has been to 60 Minutes. He is only the second executive producer of the broadcast, taking over from creator Don Hewitt in 2004.
Fager had significant support at the broadcast, where much of the leadership team under him are women. Many believed that what he's accused of pales in comparison to the allegations against ousted CEO Leslie Moonves and the newsmen who have been caught up in the #MeToo movement, including Charlie Rose, whom Fager hired for multiple roles. "Jeff has been a force for civility at 60 Minutes," said one executive. And while 60 Minutes has long been known as a challenging and highly competitive environment, the culture there, and within the industry overall, has evolved.
The program has earned hundreds of awards; this year it received 24 of the news division’s 31 Emmy nominations. 60 Minutes is averaging more than 11 million viewers this season — more than double the viewership of competing TV newsmagazines — and is regularly in TV’s top 10 most-watched programs. Under Fager’s stewardship, the broadcast launched its successful single-sponsored digital extension, 60 MinutesOvertime.com. And he lured Oprah Winfrey to 60 Minutes as a part-time correspondent in 2017, at the start of the broadcast’s 50th season.
Fager was named chairman of CBS News in 2011, and charged with revitalizing the news division, which had a rocky transition on its Evening News between Dan Rather and Katie Couric (with Bob Schieffer as interim anchor). He launched CBS This Morning in January 2012, pairing Rose and Gayle King, and later Norah O’Donnell. After decades of misfires in the morning, the broadcast has given the network its best tune-in in nearly 30 years and returned the news division to respectability during a highly lucrative daypart.
Fager's resignation comes as investigations into the allegations leveled at Moonves as well as CBS News and the overall culture at the company continue. Those probes are being handled by two separate firms: Covington & Burling and Debevoise & Plimpton.
In a July 27 New Yorker story, Fager was accused of ignoring and enabling bad behavior by two high-ranking male producers at 60 Minutes. Anonymous former employees who spoke to the writer, Farrow, also accused Fager of misconduct.
Fager strenuously denied the allegations in the story: "It is wrong that our culture can be falsely defined by a few people with an ax to grind who are using an important movement as a weapon to get even, and not by the hundreds of women and men that have thrived, both personally and professionally, at 60 Minutes."
The news division has been roiled by a series of articles. The first was published last November in The Washington Post and included on-the-record accusations of misconduct from women who worked for or aspired to work for Rose at his PBS program. Within 24 hours of the article’s publication, Rose was fired by CBS and his eponymous PBS program was canceled.
Though none of the allegations came from inside CBS News, a follow-up Post article in May included accounts that women took concerns about Rose to three managers at CBS News. And sources have told The Hollywood Reporter that many women took complaints about Rose to CBS News human resources following the first article in November.