A fun story from John Podhoretz to give you a sense of what an unrestrained horndog — allegedly! — Charlie Rose is:
A Charlie Rose memory. In 1986 I was on a date at Otello Restaurant in Dupont Circle. Charlie Rose at next table. Went to the rest room. So did Rose'e date. While we were both gone, he tried to pick up my date. At the time I admired his industry.
— John Podhoretz (@jpodhoretz) May 3, 2018
WaPo blew him up once before with an expose last November in which no fewer than eight women claimed to have been harassed on the job by him. So handsy did Rose get with women co-workers, WaPo claimed, that some took to referring to his impromptu unwanted shoulders massages as “the crusty paw.” CBS and PBS ended up launching him into unemployment shortly after — but WaPo wasn’t done. Rumors have swirled ever since that another, more damning expose was coming and that CBS execs were sweating it out, fearing that this time their inaction over Rose’s actions would be the main focus. Which always made me wonder: How did they know that? Did they have friendly sources of their own inside WaPo?
Probably not, no. Today’s bombshell makes clear how CBS management likely found out. Simply, WaPo found so many accusers and interviewed so many people that even if only a tenth of them told CBS execs that they’d been contacted the network would know it had a major problem on its hands. The number of accusers is 27. The number of people interviewed is, no typo, 107. Imagine the mounting terror as, each month, word got back to the CBS brain trust that another half-dozen current or former staffers had spoken to the paper.
The details of what Rose supposedly did to his colleagues in today’s scoop are squarely in line with WaPo’s story from November. He was handsy, allegedly, grabbing breasts and butts; he exposed himself to some, sometimes in the context of showering; he would make lewd comments, sometimes asking them if they liked sex, other times encouraging them to hook up with other staffers. There was at least one forcible kiss at a party. One woman who worked for him was taken out to lunch frequently, then for drinks one night, when a supposedly drunken Rose “demanded” she come back to his apartment with him. There they sat together at his desk watching “footage of his ’60 Minutes’ interviews with former U.S. presidents” before she made an excuse to leave. What foreplay could be hotter than watching Charlie Rose do his furrowed-brow shtick with Barack Obama?
Two noteworthy details. First, this went on for a lo-o-o-ng time. WaPo found one woman who claims Rose exposed himself to her and touched her breasts all the way back in 1976, when they worked together for NBC’s Washington bureau. And it continued, allegedly, through last year, when Rose’s “watch me interview presidents” attempted seduction of his staffer occurred. Forty years is quite a span for a secret to become an open secret and then transform into an open secret so open that it hardly qualifies as a secret anymore.
Which brings us to the second detail. What did CBS executives know and when they did know it? Could they have possibly remained in the dark for so long, even allowing for the fact that the stigma against reporting sexual harassment was stronger years ago than it is now? A noteworthy passage:
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.
If that’s true, it means people higher up at CBS have known about Rose for at least 20 years. WaPo identifies three separate cases of women reporting Rose to management, in fact — first in 1986, after he supposedly asked a colleague if she liked sex; again in 2012 after the kiss at the party; and then again last year, after Rose started taking a staffer out for too-frequent lunches and an assistant to the executive producer of CBS’s morning show flagged it for her boss. In the first case, the manager laughed it off but told the woman she didn’t have to be alone with Rose anymore. In the second, managers had a word with Rose and the staffer who was kissed was reportedly satisfied with the result. And in the third, it’s unclear what managers should have done. If it was just lunches at that point, what discipline should the network have been expected to impose? (On the other hand, the woman Rose was lunching with ended up being the same staffer watching his interviews in his apartment with him before growing uncomfortable and rushing out.)
Rose calls WaPo’s story “unfair and inaccurate” and CBS execs claim to a man that they knew nothing of his behavior. And possibly not all of them did: WaPo notes that “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.” But unless MacArthur is lying, someone knew. Whether there was formal reporting to management or not, gossip is insidious. It’s unfathomable that Rose behaved this way for 40 years and word never got back to CBS execs even in a roundabout way. When it did, why didn’t they investigate? Is there any plausible explanation except “they didn’t want to know”?
Exit question: Why didn’t they dump him years ago just to be on the safe side? Not one media figure I can think of who’s been ensnared in #MeToo has been indispensable. (Brokaw may be a late exception because, as the anchor of the nightly news show, he was the face of NBC News.) Matt Lauer, for instance, was fantastically well paid by NBC but “Today” has kept right on chugging ratings-wise since his departure. Even losing Bill O’Reilly, an original Fox News anchor with the biggest audience in cable news at 8 p.m., hasn’t been a disaster for Fox. Tucker Carlson doesn’t lead the pack in ratings but he’s reliably top five and Fox itself remains reliably number one. The idea of a newsman being so important to his network that he can’t be spared even when he’s molesting his co-workers is wildly anachronistic. Rose benefited from that anachronism for decades.