60 Minutes Executive Producer,|
But the charges against Hewitt make Clinton's alleged behavior look like clumsy courtship. One woman described to Hertsgaard how Hewitt slammed her against a wall, pinned her there and forced his tongue down her throat. — Carol Lloyd
April 20, 1999
Morley Safer Morley Safer:
60 Minutes, CBS Television
51 W 52nd Street
New York, NY
I call to your attention the following excerpt from Carol Lloyd's A Feel For a Good Story, published on the web site Mothers Who Think on 17Mar98. I will be asking you further below whether the information provided by Carol Lloyd might help explain your 23Oct94 60 Minutes broadcast, The Ugly Face of Freedom:
The irony is that Hewitt — the creator of the TV show famous for unveiling corruption and hypocrisy among the powerful — has been accused of worse deeds than any of the sexual charges leveled at Clinton.
In 1991, reporter Mark Hertsgaard, author of "On Bended Knee: The Press and the Reagan Presidency," wrote an article for Rolling Stone magazine in which he documented Hewitt's own serious problems with impulse control. Women who worked in the "60 Minutes" offices described to Hertsgaard a sexually charged environment that had more in common with a drunken frat party than a professional newsroom. Correspondent Mike Wallace was singled out for bottom slapping, lewd comments and unsnapping co-workers' bras.
While today no one would hesitate to call such behavior sexual harassment, Wallace's cheerful willingness to do it in public — even in front of a stranger — made him seem like a good (albeit unpleasant) old boy. But the charges against Hewitt make Clinton's alleged behavior look like clumsy courtship. One woman described to Hertsgaard how Hewitt slammed her against a wall, pinned her there and forced his tongue down her throat. Hewitt vehemently denied the story and all other allegations to Hertsgaard, while Wallace admitted his own antics and promised they would never happen again.
Rolling Stone eventually published Hertsgaard's article in a drastically reduced form, although Hertsgaard says Hewitt pulled all the strings he could to get the story killed. In an interview from his home in Takoma Park, Md., Hertsgaard spoke to Salon about the allegations of sexual harassment at "60 Minutes" that never made it into print — and about how the "men's club" within the media exposes other sexually reckless men, but still protects its own.
Your story has some pretty explosive accusations against Don Hewitt. How did you come to write the piece?
Sexual harassment was not the point of the investigation. I literally witnessed sexual harassment on my first day of interviews at "60 Minutes" and women began to tell me about it, so it gradually found its way into the story. But that wasn't the point, it just was so pervasive at the time that you couldn't miss it.
What did you witness when you were there?
The first day I was in the corridor talking with a female staffer and I saw out of the corner of my eye Mr. Wallace coming down the hall. He didn't know me yet because I hadn't interviewed him, so he had no idea that it was a reporter standing there. I'm sure it would have changed his mind. Anyway, just before he reached her she pushed both her hands behind her bottom, like a little kid trying to ward off a mama's spanking, and got up on her toes and leaned away. But that didn't stop him. As he went by, he swatted her on the butt with a rolled up magazine or newspaper or something like that. That's no big deal, one could say, but I must say it did raise my eyebrows. I said to her, "God, does that happen all the time?" and she said, "Are you kidding? That is nothing." And that led to people telling me how he'd also unsnap your bra strap or snap it for you. So he had a reputation for that.
Then I also heard about this far-more-worrisome incident with Hewitt and that one did get into the piece, although in a much censored form, where he lunges at a woman in a deserted place, pins her against the wall and sticks his tongue in her mouth. There were other incidents women told me about Hewitt, and, of course, (former) Washington Post journalist Sally Quinn was already on the record in her book "We're Going to Make You a Star" accusing Hewitt of making an aggressive pass at her and sabotaging her work when she refused him.
Was the sexual harassment at "60 Minutes" pervasive?
It sure seemed that way. There's a woman quoted in my story saying that Mike would constantly have his hands on your thigh, or whatnot. One producer said that basically Mike Wallace and Don Hewitt felt this was their right. And that's how a lot of men in television felt for many years. Women were basically hired for their looks. You had to be competent too, but you damn well better look good.
I understand that you had a difficult time getting the story published in Rolling Stone.
The entire piece almost never ran because Don Hewitt tried to kill it and (Rolling Stone editor and publisher) Jann Wenner almost went along with him. They did emasculate the piece by taking out a lot of the damaging material. You'll see in there that there is one basic episode involving Don. There were four that I had reported.
So what did you think when you saw Hewitt taking a stand for Kathleen Willey?
It was odd to me, seeing Don quoted in the New York Times on Friday and Saturday as he was hyping Sunday's broadcast. He's talking about what happened and I just thought of that old Dylan song: "You've got a lot of nerve."
I hoped somebody would call him on it. In today's Times, Patricia Ireland, head of NOW, is quoted as saying if these charges by Ms. Willey are true, it has crossed a very important line from sexual harassment to sexual assault. And if that's the case, we have to be very serious about it. Well, the situation where Hewitt stuck his tongue down that women's throat — that's assault. That is assault. She certainly felt like she was assaulted. She freed herself by kicking him in the balls — which they also cut out. She runs away and then the next day, there was a fancy gala event where you have to come in evening dress and she's there and Hewitt, this son of a gun — he's like a randy old goat — he just could not take no for an answer. She was wearing a backless gown and suddenly she feels someone running his fingers up and down her bare back. She turns around, obviously jumpy from what had happened the day before, and sees the object of her horror — Hewitt — saying, "Don't be scared, I just think you're a very attractive girl." They cut that out of the article too.
There's a lot of huffing and puffing within the media about Clinton's alleged behavior, with a lot of journalists complaining about the public's so-called apathy on the subject. But in the case of men like Hewitt, it seems pretty hypocritical.
It's absolutely unmistakable — and Hewitt is an extremely good example — how most of the discourse about this issue involves people who have no more moral standing than this ball-point pen in my hand. And that goes not just for Hewitt, but for many of these clowns both in the media here in Washington and in the Congress. Anybody who has spent any time around Capitol Hill knows that a large number of congressmen, both in the House and in the Senate, fool around with either their young staffers or the young female staffers of their colleagues. To any reporter who had their eyes open, this is not news.
Carol Lloyd, A Feel For a Good Story, Mothers Who Think, 17Mar98.
With respect to Carol Lloyd's statement above, I wonder if I could have your answers to just four questions:
What Carol Lloyd appears to be describing in the upper echelons of the 60 Minutes administration — I am thinking particularly of executive producer Don Hewitt and co-editor Mike Wallace — is a deep-rooted slackness of integrity: the 60 Minutes environment has "more in common with a drunken frat party than a professional newsroom," the top 60 Minutes staff are "people who have no more moral standing than this ball-point pen in my hand," and executive producer Don Hewitt comports himself "like a randy old goat." Might it be the case, then, that the cause of your failing to satisfy minimal journalistic standards in your 23Oct94 60 Minutes broadcast The Ugly Face of Freedom, and of your failing also in the years since that broadcast to retract any of its many errors, is that you yourself became infected by the same slackness of integrity that had already gripped other of the 60 Minutes leadership?
If the top 60 Minutes staff require their female employees to be physically attractive and sexually accessible, then might the resulting inability of 60 Minutes to retain women of high professional quality have resulted in a degradation in the average competence of female employees? One may speak of demanding competence together with beauty, but what woman of high competence would have hesitated to find alternative employment upon discovering the harassment and assault and career strangulation that threatened to be her lot if she remained at 60 Minutes? And so, in turn, might this readiness to lose the brightest women not be symptomatic of a readiness of the 60 Minutes administration to place extraneous goals — in this case, personal sexual gratification — above program quality? And might this same policy of demoting program quality to less than top priority have ultimately resulted in a severe degradation of the quality of some 60 Minutes broadcasts, as for example your story The Ugly Face of Freedom?
One cannot help contemplating that if 60 Minutes is willing to promote goals other than program quality in its hiring of female employees, that it might be willing to promote goals other than program quality in its hiring of male employees as well. Might it be the case, for example, that male employees are sometimes hired not for competence, but for adherence to a 60 Minutes ideology? Or might it be the case that men of high professional quality left 60 Minutes, or refused to join 60 Minutes, upon witnessing the ideological claptrap that they might be asked to read over the air in violation of journalistic ethics and in violation of rules of evidence? This too could help explain the low quality of The Ugly Face of Freedom.
Referring to the harassment and assaulting of female employees, reporter Mark Hertsgaard is quoted as saying that "One producer said that basically Mike Wallace and Don Hewitt felt this was their right." This observation leads me to wonder whether there is not on the part of certain 60 Minutes staff some similar attitude to the effect that broadcasting their prejudices against Ukraine as facts is their right, and that enjoying freedom from accountability concerning what they have broadcast about Ukraine is also their right?
cc: Ed Bradley, Jeffrey Fager, Don Hewitt, Steve Kroft, Andy Rooney, Lesley Stahl, Mike Wallace.
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