Credibility at risk, media cuts stars loose over sex allegations

NEW YORK (AP) — The consequences came swiftly after the allegations emerged against Charlie Rose. Within hours, the veteran news host was suspended by CBS and his PBS interview show was pulled off the air. The next day, he was fired.

Rose became the latest in a string of prominent journalists felled abruptly by accusations of sexual misconduct. While news organizations aren’t the only companies taking prompt measures against the accused, they face particular pressure to act because of the risk of losing the audience’s trust as they cover the sex scandals coursing through politics, Hollywood and the media itself.

“Our credibility in that reporting requires credibility managing basic standards of behavior” inside the network, CBS News president David Rhodes told staffers Tuesday in a memo announcing the firing of Rose, the “CBS This Morning” co-host and “60 Minutes” contributor. PBS also cut ties to Rose.

Rose’s downfall came after he was accused in The Washington Post of groping women, walking naked in front of them or making lewd phone calls. He apologized for his behavior while questioning the accuracy of some of the accounts.

He wasn’t even the only big-name journalist whose career was rocked Monday by such allegations. The New York Times suspended White House reporter Glenn Thrush after he was accused of making drunken, unwanted advances on women. Thrush disputed some of the accusations but apologized for “any situation where I behaved inappropriately” and said he had had a drinking problem.

In recent weeks, journalist Mark Halperin was fired from NBC News amid allegations he partially denied, and NPR news chief Michael Oreskes was ousted over behavior he acknowledged as “wrong and inexcusable.”

This all unfolded as news organizations have been busy covering accusations against such figures as Hollywood studio boss Harvey Weinstein, comedian Louis C.K., actor Kevin Spacey and, in politics, Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore and Democratic Sen. Al Franken.

While the journalists’ apologies or acknowledgements surely made it easier to cut them loose, a journalism expert said news organizations in particular can’t afford to hesitate and come off looking hypocritical.

“Especially in the news business, where it’s our job to ferret out the truth and hold powerful people accountable, executives realize that they must investigate reports about their own employees swiftly, and that means promptly suspending alleged perpetrators when there are credible allegations,” said Indira Lakshmanan, a journalism ethics scholar at the Poynter Institute, a media think tank.