NEW YORK — Jeff Fager, the longtime executive producer of “60 Minutes” who was fired on Wednesday, sent a text message to CBS News correspondent Jericka Duncan with a warning over the network’s coverage of the sexual harassment accusations against him.
On Sunday, 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.
“If you repeat these false accusations without any of your own reporting to back them up you will be held responsible for harming me,” Fager replied. “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.”
CBS News president David Rhodes announced Wednesday that Fager was leaving the company effective immediately, saying he had violated company policy. Fager said in a statement that his contract was terminated early “because I sent a text message to one of our own CBS reporters demanding that she be fair in covering the story.” He did not name Duncan.
“My language was harsh and, despite the fact that journalists receive harsh demands for fairness all the time, CBS did not like it,” Fager said. “One such note should not result in termination after 36 years, but it did.”
Duncan revealed the contents of the text message on the “CBS Evening News” on Wednesday, “since Jeff Fager publicly referred to our exchange today.”
In July, six former CBS News employees told The New Yorker that Fager “would touch employees in ways that made them uncomfortable” after drinking at office parties. The article said 19 current and former employees said Fager enabled a culture that “shielded bad behavior.”
Fager vehemently denied all of those claims. He continued to come to work.
On Sunday, The New Yorker reported that a new accuser said “she “felt compelled to speak because she simply ‘can’t believe [Fager is] back there.'” The article described her as “a producer who was an intern at CBS” in the early 2000s who said that “he groped her at a work party.”
In response to that allegation, Fager told CBS News, “This is an outrageous claim and it didn’t happen. It is wrong.”
Fager’s departure comes just days after CBS chairman and CEO Leslie Moonves resigned following allegations of sexual assault and harassment. Late last year, former “CBS This Morning” host Charlie Rose was fired after more than 2 dozen women accused him of sexual misconduct.
“60 Minutes” will enter its 51st season under the leadership of executive editor Bill Owens while the search for a new executive producer begins.
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