Charlie Rose Ousted Over Sexual Misconduct Allegations
The sudden firing of Charlie Rose by both CBS News and PBS left his colleagues and his fans reeling as they struggled to process shocking allegations.
Following a Washington Post article which included accusations of sexual misconduct against Charlie Rose, the veteran newsman was suspended by CBS News and PBS, which airs his self-titled talk show. The following day, both networks announced they had cut ties with him.
CBS This Morning began on Tuesday with the news Rose had been suspended. The broadcast spent nearly its first 10 minutes on the Rose story rather than trying to sweep it under the rug or bury it somewhere in the middle of the rundown.
I’ve been a fan of Charlie Rose for a while now. And I’ve been a fan of CBS This Morning since its debut slightly more than five years ago. Rose himself was a big part of that, as well as the format of the show and Rose’s chemistry with co-hosts Gayle King and Norah O’Donnell.
When I first heard that he had become the latest person to be accused of some kind of impropriety, I expected him to take a few days away from the broadcast, but I wondered how long it’d be before he was back. When I read some of the actual allegations against him, which, CBS News reported, included lewd phone calls, groping and exposing himself to women who either worked for his PBS show or hoped to work for him, I began to have serious doubts about whether he could return.
When I watched Tuesday’s broadcast, the first since his suspension, and heard King and O’Donnell make personal observations about the story, I suddenly found myself beginning to realize Rose wouldn’t be back on that show.
King and O’Donnell minced no words.
“This is a moment that demands a frank and honest assessment about where we stand, and more generally, the safety of women,” O’Donnell said. “Let me very clear: there is no excuse for this alleged behavior.”
King said she’d had less than two hours of sleep the night before.
“Both my son and my daughter called me; Oprah called me and said, ‘Are you okay?’ I am not okay,” she said.
Then she said something that might reveal a glimpse of what many people were feeling at that moment, even those whose only “relationship” with Rose was as a viewer watching the trio bring you the news every morning.
“I’m really struggling, because, how do you — what do you say, when someone that you deeply care about has done something that’s so horrible? How do you wrap your brain around that? I’m really grappling with that.”
Both women were clear: Rose, who offered an apology for what ha called “inappropriate behavior” in a statement on Twitter, wouldn’t get a pass for that behavior.
Nor should he.
But for some of his fans, maybe it was a wake-up call the same way allegations about Bill Cosby were a wake-up call to his fans. Or the way it is for political supporters of the public official who is accused of similar wrongdoing.
No matter how much we’ve respected and admired someone, if we’re going to have any credibility in attacking those we don’t hold in such high regard if they’re accused, we have to be willing to hold everyone to the same standard.
If you’re going to summarily dismiss accusations against one notable figure because you like that person, then you have so summarily dismiss accusations against all notable figures. If you’re going to be outraged and demand immediate justice for one, you should be willing to demand them for all.
CBS News President David Rhodes then said nearly the same thing hours later when he sent a letter to CBS News colleagues announcing Rose’s immediate termination.
“CBS News has reported on extraordinary revelations at other media companies this year and last. Our credibility in that reporting requires credibility managing basic standards of behavior. That is why we have taken these actions,” he wrote.
It’s a disappointment because of what’s changed. But for any portion of the allegations that are true, we should be able to see it as at least as big a disappointment that someone was victimized. Those particular truths should not have happened. Ever.
Rhodes addressed another point I’ve heard bandied about:
I’ve often heard that things used to be different. And no one may be able to correct the past. But what may once have been accepted should not ever have been acceptable.
I think it’s clear — maybe better now than it used to be — that men and women think differently and see the same things differently. Times have changed. Those things that used to be “accepted” simply must come under the microscope now. And both sides of the gender divide need to be able to make themselves see not only the difference in how males and females see certain behaviors, but to learn from those differences and stop victimization from happening to begin with.
We have to open our eyes to these things. We have to accept that what one person thinks is “normal” or “innocent” might be something else.
Another thing I’ve heard many people say about the Charlie Rose story is to complain — or at least comment on — what felt like some over-the-top exchanges between Rose, King and O’Donnell during their morning show. Even Last Week Tonight host John Oliver has done segments on some of the exchanges. Consider this one:
I’ve heard some say that his co-workers had to have been aware of his reputation. I happen to believe it’s entirely possible that one could be considered a “ladies man” without being assumed to be guilty of the kind of allegations that have been made.
But of course, we live in a society in which men are often celebrated if they have a reputation of being a ladies man. Often, they’re lauded by men and women. Their reputation is even encouraged out of some kind of admiration.
Rose, in his statement, acknowledged behaving “insensitively” and accepts responsibility for doing so, but added he does not believe “all of these allegations are accurate.” But then he said this: “I always felt that I was pursuing shared feelings, even though I now realize I was mistaken.”
Is it possible that our society’s treatment of a ladies man based on his reputation begins to make those men feel they’re more admired than they really are? Could it be at least partially to blame for the shocking failures of judgment that seem to be a common thread in these situations?
And for the women who have truly been victimized, what can ever be enough to make up for the acts themselves?
It’s a lot to ponder. There may be no one right or wrong answer.
Regardless, I think we all need to take a serious look at how we each process these kinds of stories. Are we too quick to believe one side or the other? Are we too likely to ignore (or not even recognize) signs that might be hiding in plain sight?
And how will we handle the next set of allegations that come to light?