Fired: CBS News makes quick work of Charlie Rose
“CBS This Morning” on Tuesday wasn’t going to leave its own big story dangling into the Thanksgiving holiday. The news broke on Monday afternoon at The Washington Post, which reported that eight women had reported disturbing sexual behavior by TV news personality Charlie Rose from the late 1990s to as recently as 2011. The alleged misconduct affected women involved with “Charlie Rose,” the PBS/Bloomberg TV program that showcases Rose as a versatile thinker, talker, raconteur.
He also has served as a co-host of “CBS This Morning,” from which he was suspended — and then fired — over the revelations in The Post. PBS and Bloomberg also announced that they’d be suspending distribution of “Charlie Rose.”
So “CBS This Morning” couldn’t plausibly open its broadcast with coverage of likely Thanksgiving traffic snarls. Or the tax legislation. Or even something on Zimbabwe. Co-host Norah O’Donnell opened with this alert: “We’re going to begin with news affecting all of us at this broadcast and this network. CBS News has suspended our co-host Charlie Rose over allegations of sexual misconduct.” Co-host Gayle King followed by introducing other relevant facts, as well as a full-on report from correspondent Bianna Golodryga.
After the program sorted through to sordid particulars, Rose’s on-set partners engaged in a discussion that won’t soon be forgotten. Here is most of it:
O’Donnell: Gayle, I know you and I have talked a lot about this and it takes a lot of courage for these women to come forward and I think that they should continue to do something.
King: We hope that they will continue to speak out.
O’Donnell: Yes. I also want to say this: That this is a moment that demands a frank and honest assessment about where we stand and more generally the safety of women. Let me be very clear: There is no excuse for this alleged behavior. It is systematic and pervasive and I’ve been doing a lot of listening and I’m going to continue to do that. This I know is true: Women cannot achieve equality in the workplace or in society until there is a reckoning and a taking of responsibility. I am really proud to work at CBS News. There are so many incredible people here, especially on this show, all of you here. This will be investigated. This has to end. This behavior is wrong, period.
King: I certainly echo that and I have to say, Norah, I really am still reeling. I got an hour and 42 minutes of sleep last night. Both my son and my daughter called me — Oprah called me and said, ‘Are you okay?’ I am not okay. After reading that article in The Post, it was deeply disturbing, troubling and painful for me to read. That said, I think we need to make this matter to women, the women that have spoken up. The women who have not spoken up because they are afraid — I’m hoping that now, they’ll take the step to speak out too. That this becomes a moment of truth. I’ve enjoyed a friendship and a partnership with Charlie for the past five years. I’ve held him in such high regard, and I’m really struggling because how do you, what do you say when someone that you deeply care about has done something that is so horrible? How do you wrap your brain around that? I’m really grappling with that. That said, Charlie does not get a pass here. He doesn’t get a pass from anyone in this room. We are all deeply affected; we are all rocked by this. And I want to echo what Norah said. I really applaud the women that speak up despite the friendship. He doesn’t get a pass because I can’t stop thinking about the anguish of these women. What happened to their dignity, what happened to their bodies, what happened, maybe, to even their careers. I can’t stop thinking about that and the pain that they’re going through. I also find that you can hold two ideas in your head at the same time. You can grapple with things. And to be very honest with you, I’m still trying to process all of this, I’m still trying to sort it out, because this is not the man I know but I’m also clearly on the side of the women who’ve been very hurt and very damaged by this. And I’m — I haven’t spoke to him. Have you spoken to him?
O’Donnell: [Shakes head]
King: I haven’t spoken to him. I intend to speak to him, certainly later today. But I’m very sorry, and I’m very glad that they have spoken up.
O’Donnell: Well said.
Such integrity is hardly an aberration at “CBS This Morning.” This is a show that marked something of a gamble for CBS News when it debuted in 2012 — as a serious, straight-up news program that tacked away from some of the fluffy stuff that mars its major competitors on ABC (“Good Morning America”) and NBC (“Today”). Format tweaks, too, were part of the presentation, as “CBS This Morning” commonly has all three anchors participating in interviews with guests. Better grilling that way, as when then-Fox News personality Bill O’Reilly used to come around to deflect questions about sexual harassment at his workplace.