Several Women Accuse TV Host Charlie Rose Of Sexual Harassment
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Charlie Rose is a household name, famous for his reporting and his in-depth interviews. Now, CBS is suspending him and PBS is halting distribution of his show, this after several women have accused him of sexual harassment in The Washington Post. The eight women were employees of Rose, or they aspired to work for him. This was in the period of the late 1990s to as recently as 2011.
And this comes as many media institutions - including NPR - are reckoning with the consequences of sexual harassment. We are joined now by Irin Carmon, she's one of The Washington Post reporters who broke this story. Thanks so much for being with us this morning.
IRIN CARMON: Great to be with you. Thanks for having me.
MARTIN: It was a strange morning at CBS as the news anchors Norah O'Donnell and Gayle King sat there on set without their longtime co-anchor, Charlie Rose. I mean, this is a big deal at CBS, it's a big deal in the world of media. Can you walk us through some of the most damning allegations against Charlie Rose?
CARMON: Sure. So we spoke to dozens of people who had worked on the show, many of whom said that they saw an atmosphere that made them uncomfortable. The one person said that it was known around the office that Charlie Rose's unsolicited shoulder rubs would be called the crusty paw.
And then we spoke to eight women who had even more serious allegations, which ranged from a hand on their upper thigh in the context of talking about a job or working for Mr. Rose, all the way to what women described as sexual assault. So all of these instances happened around the PBS show, which Charlie Rose himself owns, and these women really felt like they had nowhere to turn.
MARTIN: Nowhere to turn. I mean, so they didn't complain at the time to anyone?
CARMON: Several of them did complain to the executive producer Yvette Vega, who's been with the show since it launched in 1991. It's sort of an unusual arrangement. You know, Charlie is really a ubiquitous figure, but he owns his own show which is distributed on PBS, so PBS didn't have oversight. It's owned at the Bloomberg offices, but they told us they didn't have HR oversight at CBS.
MARTIN: No HR?
CARMON: They didn't - they do have an HR department, but they didn't have oversight over the employees of Charlie Rose Inc. And so, you know, it allowed for this kind of blending of, you know, Charlie Rose's life and the show and what these women described as inappropriate behavior. All of it occurred in the context of talking about jobs or working for him, whether they were interns or producers. You know, he's somebody who travels a lot so he would invite people to travel with him to be his research assistants to support him, you know, on a speaking engagement, and that was when many of these alleged incidents occurred.
There was also what one of the people we spoke to called a ritual of young women - also some young men, but they didn't get this full treatment - young women being called over to his apartment near the office to bring over research or to work on him to prepare him for an interview.
And in three cases that we know of - and, you know, we have been told that there may be more and we need to independently confirm that. But in three cases, they say that Charlie walked out of the shower, walked around naked in front of them. In one case, began calling one woman's name from the shower, came out and said didn't you hear me calling you?
MARTIN: Oh, my. So you - presumably, the executive producer of the "Charlie Rose" show, what did she say when - you say that some of these women went to her to complain, what was her response?
CARMON: So several of the women we spoke to did directly come to her and describe just about all of this behavior. And some of it occurred after this executive producer had told them that personal time with Charlie was key to the job. So they in fact felt like they would be safe because this woman that they really looked up to and admired said it was going to be OK and said that she was there for them.
And everybody kind of treated this kind of, you know, off-hours hanging out with Charlie at the Bellport mansion that he had where some of these incidents took place, that that was just part of the job. So I think that they've...
MARTIN: And even more so, it's like a reward. It was like it was a good thing for your career.
CARMON: Right, it was a way to build a relationship with this person who is friends with many powerful people, who routinely interviews dignitaries and heads of state and celebrities. You know, being a part of his world could be very alluring, it could involve, you know, private jets and presidents and so on.
But ultimately, these women paint a really bleak picture where they feel like the woman on the show who was in a position to protect them didn't. And she now has told us that she is crushed and that she feels like she should have done more to protect these women and that she failed them.
MARTIN: And at one point she actually said - according to one of these women - that's just Charlie being Charlie.
CARMON: Yes, that's correct.
MARTIN: How has Charlie Rose responded?
CARMON: You know, I thought that that was an interesting response that we got from him. We gave him a good amount of time to respond to the details of the allegations. You know, we really laid out the women who were on the record and then as well as what the anonymous - the women who spoke on the condition of anonymity alleged. And he said that not all of them are accurate. But we're still waiting for him to tell us which details of what these women and the women that they told related to us. So he's had a chance to do so and has not.
He did apologize and say that he, you know - we're in a new understanding of how to treat women. He also described shared feelings that he believed that these women had, which honestly does not match up with what these women told us. I mean, in one case we're talking about a 21-year-old woman with her boss three times her age. She did not describe any shared feelings to us.
MARTIN: Right. Washington Post contributor Irin Carmon - she's been talking with us about her reporting about sexual harassment allegations against CBS News anchor and PBS host Charlie Rose. Irin, thanks so much.
CARMON: Great to be here. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.