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Former CBS Evening News anchor Scott Pelley claimed on CNN’s Reliable Sources on Sunday that he lost his job as anchor of the network news program because he “wouldn’t stop complaining to management” about the news division’s “hostile work environment.”
Pelley made the comment after Reliable Sources host Brian Stelter asked the 60 Minutes correspondent what it’s been like to work for the news division, which has seen a number of departures and staff changes over the past 18 months.
Reflecting on the shake-ups, Pelley said, “I lost my job at the Evening News because I wouldn’t stop complaining to management about the hostile work environment.”
When Stelter followed up, Pelley explained that four or five years ago, he went to the “president of the news division,” who at that time was David Rhodes, and told him “that this hostile work environment couldn’t go on, for women and men.”
“And he told me if I kept agitating about that internally, then I’d lose my job,” Pelley continued, adding that he then went to Rhodes’ “boss, who told me that he didn’t share my concerns.”
After that, Pelley said, he went to former CBS CEO Les Moonves, who exited the network in September after multiple women came forward with allegations of sexual misconduct.
“Having exhausted the possibilities in the news division, I went to the chairman of the CBS Corporation, who listened to me very concerned for an hour, asked me some penetrating questions about what was going on,” Pelley explained. “I didn’t hear back from him, but in the next opportunity in my contract, I was let go from the Evening News.”
Pelley said that while the “last several years” have been a “dark period” of “incompetent management and sort of a hostile work environment in the news division,” he’s optimistic about the future of CBS News, now being led by Susan Zirinsky, under acting CEO Joe Ianniello.
“It’s all blue sky from here,” said Pelley, who spoke glowingly of his new bosses, including new 60 Minutes executive producer Bill Owens. “I know these people and I know we’re on the right track.”
On Sunday evening, in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter, a CBS News spokesperson responded to Pelley’s appearance on Reliable Sources: “Scott was expressing his own opinion. We disagree. CBS News has been working hard to advocate for an inclusive, safe and dignified workplace for everyone at CBS News, and Scott has been a supporter of these efforts.”
Pelley signed off from the CBS Evening News in June 2017 after being pushed out the month before following months of rumors. His departure from the role came months before a wave of sexual misconduct allegations rocked Hollywood and the media industry.
At the time of his departure, Pelley’s exit was seen as tied to the broadcast remaining in third place in the ratings, as it had for decades, and as a way to fill up 60 Minutes‘ thin correspondent corps ahead of the venerable news magazine’s 50th season, following the untimely death of Bob Simon in early 2015 in a car accident. Doing as many as 20 pieces a season for 60 Minutes while hosting the nightly newscast left Pelley stretched rather thin, THR noted at the time.
Still the departure was not a smooth exit, as the news broke when the New York Post‘s “Page Six” reported that Pelley’s office was being cleaned out while he was away on assignment, something that CBS News sources later stressed was at his request.
Pelley segued into a full-time position at 60 Minutes and was ultimately replaced at the Evening News by Jeff Glor and then Norah O’Donnell.
It’s unclear whether Pelley’s “hostile work environment” comments pertain to allegations of sexual misconduct, but numerous claims of inappropriate behavior at CBS News have emerged over the past 18 months, beginning with accusations against former CBS This Morning host Charlie Rose, which came to light in November 2017 and quickly led to Rose being fired from the CBS morning show.
CBS News found itself under additional scrutiny as a Washington Post investigation published in May 2018 revealed there were more alleged incidents of sexual misconduct by Rose than previously reported and managers were warned about his conduct toward women at the network on three occasions over a period of 30 years, as early as 1986 and as recently as April 2017, according to people with firsthand knowledge of the conversations.
And, as more allegations of inappropriate conduct at CBS News emerged, 60 Minutes executive producer Jeff Fager exited the network last September after sending a “harsh” text to network reporter Jericka Duncan as she investigated allegations against him.
There were also numerous investigations into conduct at CBS and in its news division.
May 26, 9:00 p.m. Updated with CBS News’ statement about Pelley’s remarks.
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