Charlie Rose is iconic in the world of broadcast journalism and has been bringing news and commentary to our TV screens since 1972. With a career like that comes some power in the industry, and like so many men we’ve learned about in the past two months, Rose also abused that power. In an article published by The Washington Post Monday, eight women accused the talk show host of sexual assault and misconduct.
In the report, the women told journalists that Rose made unwanted sexual advances toward them, groped them and would walk around in the nude in their presence. The allegations span from the 1990s to 2011 and involve women who worked on (or wanted to work on) his self-named PBS show during that time. They said that Rose would frequently request that women come to his home for “business” meetings where he would neglect to get dressed after showering.
The weirdly personal situations weren’t limited to Rose’s home either. Megan Crydt and Reah Bravo (two of the three women who revealed their names) both reported being groped by the host in cars. Kyle Godfrey-Ryan described over a dozen times Rose undressed in front of her and said that he would fantasize about seeing her swim naked. In a Facebook post, Godfrey-Ryan shared the WaPo article, explained why she felt it was important to lend her name to the story and described the general air of misconduct that was supported around the PBS show.
In the hours after the story broke, CBS announced that they would be suspending Rose from his job as co-host on CBS This Morning. PBS also suspended the host and said they would not be airing episodes of his show for the time being. CBS announced Tuesday morning that Rose had been fired; final decisions from PBS and Bloomberg TV have not yet been made public.
Co-hosts on CBS This Morning Gayle King and Norah O’Donnell addressed the news on air Tuesday morning.
“This is a moment that demands a frank and honest assessment of where we stand and more generally, the safety of women,” O’Donnell said, “Let me be very clear: there is no excuse for this alleged behaviour. It is systematic and pervasive and I’ve been doing a lot of listening and I’m going to continue to do that. This I know is true: women cannot achieve equality in the workplace or in society until there is a reckoning and a taking of responsibility.”
“We have to make this matter to women,” King added (after a characteristic Oprah name-drop), “Women who have spoken up, women who have not spoken up because they’re afraid — we’re hoping that now they will take the step to speak out too, that this becomes a moment of truth. I’ve enjoyed a friendship and a partnership with Charlie for five years. I’ve held him in such high regard and I’m really struggling because what do you say when someone that you deeply care about has done something that is so horrible?” Gayle’s sentiments echo those Sarah Silverman expressed last week about Louis C.K.: “Can you love someone who did bad things?”
In the day since the original Post article, additional women have come forward to The New York Times and Business Insider with more accusations against Rose. The host issued an apology Monday afternoon, calling his behaviour “deeply inappropriate” and saying he “behaved insensitively at times.”
He added, “I do not believe that all of these allegations are accurate. I always felt I was pursuing shared feelings, even though I now realize I was mistaken.”
My statement in full. pic.twitter.com/3kvFrqF2dT
— Charlie Rose (@charlierose) November 20, 2017
The statement is pretty problematic. He verges on victim blaming by saying he assumed that the feelings were shared and essentially claims ignorance as a defense for his behaviour. He also implies that the feelings of shame and powerlessness that victims of sexual harassment and abuse experience are a concept that is just surfacing during this current cultural moment.
He writes, “I have learned a great deal as a result of these events and I hope others will too. All of us, including me, are coming to a newer and deeper recognition of the pain caused by conduct in the past, and I have a profound new respect for women and their lives.”
Women are not new to the systemic power imbalance that allows influential men to get away with sexually abusing those who have no choice but to stay quiet about it. Rose’s statements show a fundamental misunderstanding of the pain his actions have caused.
While his words are not at all comforting, hopefully he is right in his prediction that people really will learn from the women coming forward and the resulting society-wide conversation.