“Jeff Fager is leaving the company effective immediately,” CBS News President David Rhodes said Wednesday in a statement, according to the Hollywood Reporter and numerous other news outlets.
After 36 years with CBS, 14 of them as executive producer of 60 Minutes, Fager was given his walking papers after sending threatening text messages to CBS Evening News reporter Jericka Duncan. Duncan was working on a different aspect of the story, trying to verify several allegations of sexual misconduct that had been levied against Fager (and which Fager vehemently denies). Duncan reports on CBS Evening News that she had reached out to him to confirm her information about the story, and he responded with two ominous sounding text messages. From Duncan’s segment, “-if you repeat these false allegations without any of your own reporting to back them up you will be held responsible for harming me.” He then continued in a second message, “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.”
Fager is the third powerful CBS executive to be accused of inappropriate conduct in less than a year, with CEO Les Moonves being accused in the same New Yorker article as Fager, and Charlie Rose being accused at the beginning of the #MeToo movement last November. According to CNN, with Moonves being the CEO of the organization, CBS executives felt it was more important to resolve his exit before addressing Fager’s allegations, so Fager was basically waiting in the wings to defend himself against the New Yorker article.
However, when he sent the text messages to Duncan, that was apparently too much for the CBS executives, and they decided to push him out the door early. In a statement to CNN, Fager 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.”
In her reporting segment, Duncan outlines the allegations against Fager, then reports that he was fired, quoting Fager as saying he had sent a harshly worded text to a CBS reporter. The camera cuts to Duncan, and she boldly states, “I am that reporter.” She then outlines the exact texts she received, stating that since he made a public reference to their exchange, she wanted to be transparent from her side of it. After her segment, CBS Evening News anchor Jeff Glor issued a live statement supporting her, both personally and on behalf of the crew.
You can watch Ms. Duncan’s reporting on the issue in the video below.