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Less than 24 hours after 60 Minutes executive producer Jeff Fager exited CBS News after sending a “harsh” text to a reporter investigating allegations of inappropriate conduct against Fager, the reporter who received the message, Jericka Duncan, stopped by CBS This Morning to talk about what it was like to get such a missive. While there, she received strong expressions of support from co-hosts Gayle King, Norah O’Donnell and John Dickerson.
King and Duncan, who joined the co-hosts at the morning show’s roundtable, recapped the news of Fager’s exit and the explanations given by CBS News (that he violated company policy) and Fager himself. Duncan elaborated on her own reporting that led her to receive a text from Fager in which she claims he told her to “be careful.”
Responding to a quote from Fager in a video package in which he said 60 Minutes continued to remain successful because the “fundamentals” haven’t changed, Duncan said, “The fundamentals of reporting include asking questions of those we cover, and that’s exactly what we were doing.”
She later added of her work on the story: “Never expected this.”
King then chimed in, sharing her views of the news and support for Duncan.
“This is a very difficult story for us to cover and certainly for you. Big trees are falling at CBS, but I really do believe the company wants to and can get this right,” King said. “I can only imagine what this has done to you, how this has affected you, and I certainly applaud you, Jericka, for speaking up.”
O’Donnell asked Duncan how she felt when she received the message.
“I was shocked,” she said. “And like the many people that I’ve covered, you finally understand that conflicting feeling about why and what and why would you even put me in this position now.”
Both she and King said they viewed the response as a threat, with Dickerson quickly and firmly interjecting, “It was a threat.”
Duncan thanked everyone who supported her, both in and out of the network, saying she’s “extremely grateful for that.”
Added O’Donnell, “We at CBS This Morning support you, 100 percent, as well as at the news division.”
The development is just the latest news story involving its network that CBS This Morning has had to address this week, with the hosts previously speaking about former CBS CEO Leslie Moonves, who stepped down on Sunday after multiple allegations of sexual misconduct. In November, when longtime co-host Charlie Rose was fired after facing his own claims of inappropriate behavior, King and O’Donnell also spoke about that news. Dickerson replaced Rose as co-host on the show.
Later on CBS’ The Talk, the co-hosts, still without Moonves’ wife Julie Chen, spoke about Fager’s exit and the text Duncan received. All of the women at the table indicated that they supported Fager exiting the network, with Eve also expressing her support for Duncan “being brave” to report on the message she received, which the co-host argued would prompt fear.
Sara Gilbert said in part that she was “happy CBS took the action that it did.”
Added Sharon Osbourne: “He [Fager] said in his email to her [Duncan] that people had been fired before. I just think it’s so refreshing that this old regime of the boys club — guys taking care of guys — he’d had a couple of women gone to HR before about him and he still had his job. … I think it’s just great to clean house.”
Said Sheryl Underwood, “It was great to see … that CBS took swift and clear action.”
The co-hosts also agreed the message was threatening and asked the audience whether they thought the text was just “harsh” or “threatening,” to which the crowd shouted back, “threatening.”
Sept. 13, 2:33 p.m. This story has been updated to include the Talk co-hosts’ comments on Fager and Duncan.
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