Scott Pelley, a career journalist at CBS and longtime “60 Minutes” correspondent, said Sunday he believes he lost his job as the host of “CBS Evening News” in 2017 after lodging complaints about a hostile workplace environment that ultimately saw many network executives forced from their jobs.
Pelley, who appeared on CNN’s “Reliable Sources” on Sunday to promote his new book, said he is excited about the revamped leadership team at CBS. But for years, a culture of sexual harassment and workplace hostility went ignored, he said, and when he tried to press the issue, his contract was allowed to lapse.
“We’ve been through a dark period over the last several years of incompetent management and sort of a hostile work environment within the news division,” Pelley told CNN’s Brian Stelter while speaking about his new book. “I lost my job at the evening news because I wouldn’t stop complaining to management.”
CBS distanced itself from Pelley’s characterization in a statement on Monday, noting the company had been working towards a “dignified workplace” for all employees.
“Scott was expressing his own opinion. We disagree,” a network spokesperson told HuffPost. “CBS News has been working hard to advocate for an inclusive, safe and dignified workplace for everyone at CBS News and Scott has been a supporter of these efforts.”
CBS went through a tumultuous period last year after several executives and news personalities were pushed out amid network-wide scandals. Chairman Les Moonves stepped down amid claims of sexual harassment from a dozen women. Longtime “60 Minutes” executive producer Jeff Fager was fired after sending a threatening text message to a CBS reporter. And anchor Charlie Rose was also fired amid his own sexual harassment allegations.
Pelley told Stelter that several years ago he spoke to the then-head of CBS’s news division to express his troubles about treatment of both men and women in the department. When those fears were pushed aside, the journalist went to the chairman of CBS, presumably Moonves.
“Having exhausted the possibilities in the news division I went to the chairman of the CBS Corporation who listened to me very concerned for an hour, asked me some penetrating questions about what was going on,” Pelley recalled. “I didn’t hear back from him, but in the next opportunity in my contract, I was let go from the evening news.”
David Rhodes, the former president of CBS’s news division, denied the characterizations in an interview with the Daily Beast, saying any conversations Pelley mentioned “never happened.”
“If he had those conversations about this with anybody, it wasn’t with me,” Rhodes told the outlet.
CBS’s news division is now being led by Susan Zirinsky, who has already instituted a dramatic shake-up in the anchor rolls. Gayle King was named as the new face of “CBS This Morning,” and the network tapped Norah O’Donnell as the lead anchor of “CBS Evening News.”
Pelley said he was thrilled by the moves.
“As you say, now everything is changed,” the journalist said on CNN Sunday night. “It’s all blue sky from here. I’m very excited.”