In her most pointed comments to date about allegations of harassment at CBS, Katie Couric said the reports about the network’s toxic, male-centric culture ring true.
CEO Leslie Moonves and “60 Minutes” executive producer Jeff Fager left the company this month after an investigation into claims of misconduct turned up numerous examples. Both men have denied allegations against them.
“The culture I found at ‘60 Minutes’ personally was very challenging and at times quite offensive,” she told CNN’s Brian Stelter on “Reliable Sources” Sunday. “I think obsequious and subservience was a job requirement in order to thrive there for many women in particular.”
“Sucking up to the boss?” Stelter asked.
“Pretty much, yeah,” said Couric, who worked at CBS between 2006 to 2011 as a news anchor and a contributor to “60 minutes”.
Couric also worked with Matt Lauer for years as a co-host on NBC’s “Today.” Lauer was fired by NBC last year over alleged sexual harassment. Lauer denied engaging in “coercive, aggressive or abusive actions,” though he said he “fully acknowledged” he at times “acted inappropriately.”
Couric said Sunday that Lauer was a “terrific professional partner with me for many years” and she was “unaware of any kind of this behavior, predatory behavior.”
“It was obviously very shocking and disturbing to me and a lot of his colleagues,” Couric said.
She said these highly publicized examples point to a larger problem in newsrooms, most of which are run by men.
“I think that obviously the male hierarchy has been in place [at CBS] for years, and it’s time for that to end. But they’re not the only network that has a male hierarchy,” she said. “If you look at the news presidents at every major broadcast and cable network, they’re all male.”
Shortly after the interview, Couric noted to Stelter that Fox News does have a female boss, Suzanne Scott, who became CEO earlier this year. Jay Wallace is the president of Fox News.
On air, Couric continued: “All three evening news anchors are male. The vast majority of executive producers at every network are male. And this really has to end.”
Couric added that “implicit bias” needs to be “understood better in media circles.” She described the term as “cultural conditioning that causes us to look at people a certain way.”
Couric said she has been guilty of it herself. During the presidential election 10 years ago, she said she questioned aloud whether Sarah Palin, then-Governor of Alaska and John McCain’s running mate, could handle being vice president with five children.
“I would never ask that question about a male candidate,” she said. “I think we have so much work to do.”
Couric said movements like #MeToo should help guide newsrooms toward better parity.
“If we really believe that the tone at the top is paramount, then you have to have more diverse voices at the top because they have such an impact on the editorial choices that are made, who covers stories and how they’re covered,” Couric said.