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Charlie Rose’s misconduct was widespread at CBS and three managers were warned, investigation finds

In this Oct. 24, 2017 photo, Charlie Rose attends New York Magazine's 50th Anniversary Celebration at Katz’s Delicatessen in New York. (Andy Kropa / Associated Press)
By Amy Brittain and Irin Carmon Washington Post

Incidents of sexual misconduct by Charlie Rose were far more numerous than previously known, according to a new investigation by the Washington Post, which also found three occasions over a period of 30 years in which CBS managers were warned of his conduct toward women at the network.

An additional 27 women – 14 CBS News employees and 13 who worked with him elsewhere – said Rose sexually harassed them. Concerns about Rose’s behavior were flagged to managers at the network as early as 1986 and as recently as April 2017, when Rose was co-anchor of “CBS This Morning,” according to multiple people with firsthand knowledge of the conversations.

Rose’s response to the new allegations was delivered in a one-sentence email: “Your story is unfair and inaccurate.”

The new allegations follow an earlier Post report on Rose’s behavior at his namesake PBS program, in which eight women accused the TV star of making lewd phone calls, walking around naked in their presence, or groping their breasts, buttocks or genital areas. Rose issued an apology. His PBS show was canceled and he was fired from CBS News.

The Post’s investigation is based on interviews over a five-month period with 107 current and former CBS News employees as well as two dozen others who worked with Rose at other television programs.

Many of those interviewed for this story spoke on the condition of anonymity because they feared retaliation. The Post corroborated specific accounts with witnesses or people in whom they confided.

The new allegations against Rose date to 1976, when, according to a former research assistant, he exposed his penis and touched her breasts in the NBC News Washington bureau where they worked.

“This other personality would come through, and the groping would happen,” said the former research assistant, Joana Matthias, now 63. An NBC News spokeswoman declined to comment.

At CBS News, where in addition to the morning show Rose worked as a contributing correspondent for “60 Minutes,” some women who said they were harassed said they feared reporting the violations to executives, whom they viewed as prioritizing the careers of male stars.

“I had been there long enough to know that it was just the way things went,” said Sophie Gayter, now 27, who worked at “60 Minutes” in 2013 when, she said, Rose groped her buttocks as they walked down an office hallway to a recording studio. “People said what they wanted to you, people did what they wanted to you.”

CBS News, which has said it had no human resources complaints about Rose, issued a statement Wednesday in response to a request for comment.

“Since we terminated Charlie Rose, we’ve worked to strengthen existing systems to ensure a safe environment where everyone can do their best work,” the statement said. “Some of the actions we have taken have been reported publicly, some have not. We offer employees discretion and fairness, and we take swift action when we learn of unacceptable behavior.

“That said, we cannot corroborate or confirm many of the situations described. We continue to look for ways to improve our workplace and this period of reflection and action has been important to all of us. We are not done with this process.”

The executive who hired Rose for multiple roles at the network over the years, longtime “60 Minutes” head and former CBS News chairman Jeff Fager, said via email that he had no knowledge of any allegations against Rose until the Post’s November report.

“I was never informed that Charlie behaved badly with women,” Fager wrote. “I hired him because he was one of the best interviewers in the country. Period. If I knew there was this darker side, he never would have been hired.”

The network recently announced the formation of a working group, consisting of a dozen employees, to “assess our workplace environment and hear ideas and suggestions to make CBS News an even better place to do important journalism,” according to an email earlier this month to the staff. A CBS News spokeswoman said that in-person training for sexual harassment is now mandatory for all employees.

In a statement in March, CBS News President David Rhodes said: “I was not aware of harassment by Charlie Rose at CBS.”

Asked during a forum last month at George Washington University, whether CBS News had protected Rose or known about his behavior, Rhodes responded: “Just to be really clear, there was not knowledge.”

The Post has partnered with “60 Minutes” over the years, including on an investigation last year of the Drug Enforcement Administration. None of the investigative reporters or their editors who collaborated directly with “60 Minutes” on that story worked on this one.

The first instance identified by the Post in which a CBS News employee said a manager was told of Rose’s conduct was in 1986, when he was filling in as an anchor on “CBS Morning News.”

There, Annmarie Parr, a 22-year-old news clerk, delivered a script to Rose. He had made “lewd, little comments” about her appearance before, Parr said, but that day Rose took it further. “Annmarie, do you like sex?” she said he asked her. “Do you enjoy it? How often do you like to have sex?” She said she laughed nervously and left.

Parr said she reported Rose’s comments to her boss – a senior producer whom she declined to name – and said she didn’t want to be alone with Rose. The producer laughed, Parr said, and told her, “Fine, you don’t have to be alone with him anymore.”

That same year, seven women sued CBS claiming that the workplace on the network’s overnight broadcast “Nightwatch” was “offensive and hostile” to female employees.

The women accused CBS of knowingly tolerating an environment of sexual harassment by the show’s executive producer John Huddy and unidentified other employees. Huddy, who could not be reached for comment, resigned before the suit was filed.

Rose was a co-anchor for the show in Washington, though he was not mentioned in the lawsuit.

One of the plaintiffs, Beth Homan-Ross, who worked directly with Rose as an assistant producer, told the Post that Rose frequently made sexual remarks about her breasts and buttocks. When she arrived at his house to deliver materials or prepare him for work, he would sometimes open the door naked, holding a towel. More than once, she said, Rose asked her to come into his bathroom while he was showering. She said she declined, waiting outside.

“It was a sexual land mine everywhere you stepped,” Homan-Ross, now 61, said of working in the show’s Washington office.

The lawsuit was settled under confidential terms in 1987.

Rose left CBS in 1990 and the next year launched his own show on PBS, which established his brand of long-form interviews with the famous and powerful.

By the end of the decade, Rose had become a household name. In 1998, he was brought back to CBS as a correspondent at “60 Minutes II,” a spinoff of the original program. The arrangement, in which Rose worked part time for the show, gave him the freedom to keep his own show on PBS.

By then, some at CBS were concerned about Rose’s conduct toward women.

When Susan MacArthur was interviewing in the late 1990s for a job to be Rose’s assistant, she said, a CBS News executive told her to “steer clear” because of the host’s history of “questionable behavior.”

“She looked me dead in the eyes and said, ‘You are going to be working alone with this man and being alone with this man in his hotel, and you need to think really hard about whether you want to do this,’” MacArthur said, declining to name the executive. MacArthur heeded the advice and stopped returning Rose’s calls.

For some of the women who interacted professionally with Rose, it became hard to draw lines between his roles at CBS and PBS, where, as the show’s owner, he was the boss.

In 2003, he brought a 20-year-old intern from his PBS show on a CBS trip to California for a “60 Minutes II” assignment.

“You’re not just working for a show, you’re working for Charlie, period,” said the former intern, Corrina Collins, who now lives in Montana and works as a transportation planner.

On the plane, Collins said, Rose insisted she drink wine and began to “paw” her. Collins became drunk, she said, and threw up in the plane’s bathroom.

Rose squeezed her breast during the car ride from the airport, Collins said. She said he insisted that they work in his hotel room, where he told her, “I want you to ride me.” She quickly left his room. “It felt predatory,” she said. “I had already said no, but he was going to persist.”

Back in New York, Collins said she shared concerns about Rose with Yvette Vega, the executive producer of Rose’s PBS show, who she said replied that he was harmless. Vega did not respond to a request for comment.

Collins shared her account several years ago with Danna Jackson, a lawyer and family friend in Montana, who corroborated her account.

In 2008, Rose was brought aboard “60 Minutes” as a contributing correspondent by Fager, who had been his boss at “60 Minutes II” and had been named as the flagship Sunday program’s executive producer.

In 2011, Fager was promoted to be CBS News chairman. Again, he turned to Rose for a marquee assignment – tapping him to co-host the network’s struggling morning show, “CBS This Morning.”

Fager later said his decision to tap Rose was based on his “gut.”

“Charlie, to us, symbolized … what we are about, you know, we being this strong identity of journalism that is relatively pure,” Fager said in a podcast interview last year.

Rose had risen to become one of the news division’s biggest stars, with prominent roles as a contributor to “60 Minutes” and as co-host of “CBS This Morning.”

And soon after he was hired at “CBS This Morning,” Rose’s inappropriate behavior was flagged to a supervisor – the second time identified by the Post in which CBS News management was alerted to his conduct.

Rose hosted a holiday gathering in late 2011 for CBS and PBS staffers at the Spotted Pig in Manhattan and, amid other partygoers, forcibly kissed a “CBS This Morning” employee, according to two people with firsthand knowledge of the incident.

The next day, the woman who was kissed told the ”CBS This Morning“ executive producer, Chris Licht, what happened, but asked him not to share with the company’s human resources department what she reported.

Licht confirmed in an email to the Post that he was told about the kissing incident with Rose. He said he abided by the wishes of the employee and spoke with Rose about the incident.

Licht, who has since been promoted to CBS executive vice president and now heads the “Late Show With Stephen Colbert,” declined to be quoted and did not provide further details of his conversation with Rose. He said he received no other complaints about inappropriate sexual behavior by Rose.

CBS News spokeswoman Christa Robinson said in a statement that Licht’s actions were “within the scope of CBS policy at the time” and that the “employee in question was satisfied with the result.” Robinson added that CBS revised its policy in 2016 to require supervisors to “promptly report” harassment complaints to the human resources department or a compliance officer.

The woman who was kissed declined to comment.

Weeks later, in January 2012, a “CBS This Morning” paid contributor was on the set with Rose during an off-air moment when, she said, he drew her close, groped her right buttock and whispered in her ear, “Damn, you look good on TV.”

The contributor immediately told a friend about the incident. The friend, contacted separately by the Post, corroborated the conversation.

The third and most recent example identified by the Post in which a CBS News manager was alerted to Rose’s behavior came in early 2017. By then, Licht had been replaced by Ryan Kadro, who remains the executive producer of “CBS This Morning.”

Brooks Harris, then 24, had been working the night shift when she was briefly assigned to work in the studio during the morning hours. That’s when Rose first approached her.

Rose said that he had heard Harris was smart and had talked to Kadro about her, according to Harris. She said Rose also began taking her to lunch at expensive restaurants, where he bought her wine and floated job opportunities at “60 Minutes” and at his PBS show.

“I was nobody, and he picked me out of a crowd of employees,” Harris recalled.

Harris’s mother, Heather Harris, told the Post she expressed concern to her daughter about Rose’s attention, but “all of the indications from the newsroom were that he was a trustworthy guy.” And the younger Harris was ready for a new job.

Within a few weeks, Harris said, Rose sent her to “60 Minutes” to meet with Alison Pepper, a senior broadcast manager at the time.

“She didn’t know why I’d showed up there,” Harris said. “I said, ‘Oh, Charlie sent me over here to have a meeting with you. He said you were expecting me.” According to Harris, Pepper said she wasn’t sure if the show had the budget for a new position.

Through a CBS News spokeswoman, Pepper declined to comment.

Meanwhile, Kadro’s then-executive assistant, Chelsea Wei, said she grew increasingly concerned about Rose’s one-on-one lunches with Harris outside the office.

Wei, who went on to work for Rose’s CBS team and still works at the network, said she confided in her boyfriend, who encouraged her to report her concerns to management – a conversation the boyfriend separately recalled to the Post.

Early that April, Wei said, she told Kadro that she was worried that Rose’s attention to Harris outside of the office, including the lunches, seemed unusual. She said she offered Kadro a warning: “I’m telling you in case you have a lawsuit on your hands.” Kadro, she said, did not seem alarmed.

Kadro, in an email to the Post, acknowledged that Wei came to speak to him about Rose, but disputed her account. “Ms. Wei did not tell me about inappropriate behavior by Charlie Rose towards Ms. Harris at any time… . Regarding your question about a ‘lawsuit’ – I don’t believe she used that word.”

Days later, Harris said, Rose offered her a position at his PBS show that paid roughly $20,000 more than she had been making.

“It is the best job in the world,” he wrote her in an April 11, 2017, email reviewed by the Post. “I want you to be at the center of my professional world as I navigate between CHARLIE ROSE, CTM, AND SIXTY MINUTES.”

Kadro, Harris said, encouraged her to take the job. He denied doing so: “I did not ‘encourage’ Ms. Harris to work for Mr. Rose,” he said in the email.

Once she started working at “Charlie Rose,” Harris said, his behavior increasingly made her uncomfortable. She said Rose told her he hired her because he liked tall women and once suggested she have sex with another female assistant, Sydney McNeal.

McNeal confirmed the remarks in an interview with the Post, adding that working for Rose was “toxic” and that it “made me question my intelligence, dignity and worth as a human being almost every day.”

When the two assistants went on an errand to Rose’s Bellport, N.Y., house, Harris said that their boss remarked jokingly that he didn’t want to hear reports of “two young women swimming naked together” in his pool.

Late one July night last year, after a “Charlie Rose” staff gathering, Harris said, Rose asked her to leave alone with him. She said he took her for drinks at the upscale restaurant Harry Cipriani and demanded she come up to his apartment. She said Rose was drunk and insisted they sit together at his desk to watch footage of his “60 Minutes” interviews with former U.S. presidents.

The situation made her uncomfortable, she said, so she made up an excuse to leave quickly.

Four months later, PBS canceled the program, citing the Post’s reporting on sexual harassment there – leaving the entire staff, including Harris, unemployed. CBS News suspended and fired Rose, and issued a statement saying it had “no records of any complaint of sexual harassment by Charlie Rose.” The network’s reporters vowed to follow the story.

In February, Ken Goldberg, an attorney representing Harris, Wei and McNeal, sent Rose and CBS a letter containing their allegations. Among the claims: Rose subjected the women to “repeated physical and verbal sexual harassment,” including sexual touching, comments and advances.

“Management, numerous broadcasters and studio staff witnessed Mr. Rose’s unlawful conduct, and complaints were made,” Goldberg wrote. But, he added, CBS and Rose’s separate company “failed and refused to take any remedial action and that conduct continued unabated.”

Goldberg said that his clients plan to file a lawsuit in the coming days.