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News Brief: CBS's Rose Accused Of Harassment, AT&T's Merger In Question


Another big name in the media industry is going off the air for the time being.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: From our studios in New York City, this is Charlie Rose.

MARTIN: Charlie Rose, host of the PBS show that bears his name and one of the most influential TV interviewers in this country, apologized yesterday for what he called inappropriate behavior.


The Washington Post published accounts of eight women who accused him of sexual harassment. Some are anonymous in the story. Others gave their names. Some women wanted to work for Charlie Rose while other women did have jobs with his production company and said they were harassed when he told them to work from one of his homes. PBS is halting distribution of his program. He's also suspended from CBS, where he anchors "CBS This Morning." Several media organizations, including NPR News, have now suspended various leaders for a variety of acts against women.

MARTIN: We are joined now by Irin Carmon. She's one of The Washington Post reporters who broke this story about Charlie Rose. And before we go into any details, we just want to say to our listeners that this conversation is likely to contain content that some of you might find disturbing.

So Irin, can you just start off by laying out some of the most damning allegations against Charlie Rose?

IRIN CARMON: Good morning. We spoke to eight women who had allegations of sexual harassment and in two cases what could constitute sexual assault against Charlie Rose. We also spoke to dozens of people who worked on the show, a few of which who said they didn't see harassment but many of whom described an environment that made them uncomfortable, particularly with regard to how Mr. Rose treated women - unsolicited shoulder rubs that they called the crusty paw. These women described behaviors that range from hand on the upper thigh to - one of which was in the context of a job interview - to walking around naked, to forced touching of their private areas.

MARTIN: Wow. So I mean, you've talked with a lot of people who are associated with him and his programs over the years. What have you learned about how this was able to happen for so long?

CARMON: Well, I think that there are structural reasons how this was able to happen. Charlie Rose, with regard to the PBS show where these allegations took place - he owns his own show. There is no HR representative. They film at the Bloomberg headquarters, and Bloomberg told us they don't have HR responsibilities over his show. There was an executive producer, Yvette Vega, who some of the women we spoke to repeatedly reported this behavior, but nothing happened.

And one of the women who was a 21-year-old assistant at the time said her boss would call her - her boss Charlie Rose would call her and tell her his sexual fantasies about her, ask her about her life. When she reported this Yvette Vega, she says that Yvette told her that's just Charlie being Charlie.

MARTIN: And she has since apologized. Is that right?

CARMON: She has said that she is crushed that she did not do more to protect these women.

MARTIN: And the reaction to your story thus far - what are you hearing in the wake of this?

CARMON: We've been hearing from a lot more women who would like to talk to us. And of course, we're going to do our best to report out what they have to tell us.

MARTIN: Talk to you about Charlie Rose or others?

CARMON: Yes, they'd like to - well, there are others as well. I mean, I'm sure you've seen there's kind of a dam that's burst.

MARTIN: Right.

CARMON: As we mentioned in the story, I started reporting on this in 2010, but I was unable to get as far as publication because there was so much fear. I mean, this is a man who had enormous power...


CARMON: ...In the media industry, and...

MARTIN: And things have - are clearly changing.

CARMON: Now things have changed, yeah. It's a cultural reckoning.

MARTIN: Irin Carmon of The Washington Post, thanks so much for sharing your reporting with us.

CARMON: Thanks for having me.


MARTIN: One of President Trump's favorite political tactics is to attack CNN. So what's that mean now that his administration is suing a move by the network's corporate parent?

INSKEEP: Yeah, the Justice Department filed the lawsuit late yesterday to block AT&T's $85 billion takeover of Time Warner. And it's Time Warner that controls the cable network that President Trump often denounces.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: CNN - fake - or CNN, which is so bad and so pathetic, and their ratings are going.

We don't want fake news - very fake news.

INSKEEP: CNN, for the record, has generally done very well in the ratings the past couple of years. In fact the president's tweets make it clear that he himself is sometimes watching. During the campaign, Trump also criticized Time Warner's merger plans.

MARTIN: Let's talk about all this with NPR's Alina Selyukh. She's here in the studio. Alina, what is the Justice Department's argument? Why do they want to block this deal?

ALINA SELYUKH, BYLINE: Hi. Good morning. So this is a bit of a rare situation. What we have is two companies, and they don't compete directly. And you've got AT&T - it's a mobile-slash-satellite TV and Internet service provider - and then Time Warner, which is a media giant, as you were pointing out, the parent of CNN. Or Turner Broadcasting has cable TV networks. And his...

MARTIN: It's the content on one side and the distribution mechanisms on the other.

SELYUKH: Exactly. And the Department of Justice historically tends to block the types of mergers that reduce the number of competitors, which in this case doesn't exactly fly.

MARTIN: That's not this.

SELYUKH: Yet the Department of Justice is saying AT&T and Time Warner together would be able to raise prices for the competitors and for the consumers. And they're asking a federal judge to block the merger on those grounds.

MARTIN: All right, so let's talk about the CNN...

SELYUKH: The elephant in the room...

MARTIN: ...The elephant in the room (laughter).

SELYUKH: ...As CNN chief executive call...

MARTIN: Right. We know...

SELYUKH: CNN chief executive call...

MARTIN: We know President Trump has spoken out, maligned CNN at many turns. And there are these media reports suggesting that the Department of Justice wants AT&T to sell CNN off - it's of course owned by Time Warner - and that selling CNN would be a condition of approving the merger. Here's what the head of AT&T, Randall Stephenson, said.


RANDALL STEPHENSON: There's been a lot of reporting of speculation whether this is all about CNN. And frankly, I don't know. But nobody should be surprised if the question keeps coming up.

MARTIN: So is there, Alina, any evidence that President Trump is influencing this move at all?

SELYUKH: The Department of Justice says no. The president's views on CNN had no influence on their antitrust review. That being said, this has been a very long shadow hanging over the merger. And...

MARTIN: It would be hard not to take into consideration from the president's comment.

SELYUKH: ...From the company's perspective, too, it's certainly provided fodder to keep raising concerns about the veracity of the merger's review. And I'm sure this will come up in court.

INSKEEP: And let's remember. When the travel ban was in court, the president's various statements about Muslims were part of the evidence that's been used against him. His statements about CNN would be sure to come up if this gets to a court proceeding.

MARTIN: Right. Alina Selyukh from NPR's business desk breaking it down for us this morning. Thanks, Alina.

SELYUKH: Thank you.


MARTIN: And now to Zimbabwe, where the Parliament there is beginning impeachment proceedings for its president today.

INSKEEP: Yeah. Robert Mugabe has led the country since 1980. And as we've reported last week, the military told him in effect, quit, or you're fired. He refused to resign, so the country's Parliament now moves to impeach. Here's how one military official, a leader of Zimbabwe's war veterans, described his outlook on Mugabe's 37 years.

CHRIS MUTSVANGWA: Yes, he had 37 years in power. He shouldn't even be there for another 37 seconds.

INSKEEP: This is really a battle over who succeeds Mugabe, who's 93. It all started when the president dismissed his vice president, a possible successor, prompting fears that his wife might take over instead.

MARTIN: Lots of political drama. We are joined now by NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, who's been covering all this. She joins us on the line from Johannesburg. Ofeibea, good morning.


MARTIN: What can you tell us about this impeachment process? What's it going to look like?

QUIST-ARCTON: Everyday a new story - let me just first tell you, Rachel, that President Mugabe - can you believe the man who is under house arrest has actually called a cabinet meeting today? He called his ministers or those who are remaining to come for a cabinet meeting. None of them has because the governing ZANU-PF party which ousted Mugabe as leader last week has begun impeachment proceedings against him because he has refused to resign. So they've been meeting, we're told, now to find out how they're going to go about this because it's a difficult process. It won't be over in two minutes. They've got to have two-thirds of the MPs who agree to President Mugabe being impeached and fired.

MARTIN: So is that likely?

QUIST-ARCTON: Last week, it was euphoria, Zimbabweans celebrating change, saying the military has at last pushed Mugabe out. This week, it's cool heads and a bit of, you know, stone-cold what goes next? President Mugabe is not a fool. I mean, he is the ultimate political survivor. So if he is refusing to step down, he is going to try and find some provisions within the constitution to say that everything that has gone on, the military takeover the army refuses to call a coup is not constitutional and that what even his party, ZANU-PF, is trying to do - push him out - is not constitutional.

So we've got to the point where there is a big question mark. How is Zimbabwe going to proceed? And of course who is going to be the leader? Is it going to be the military pushing Emmerson Mnangagwa, the vice president who was fired two weeks ago...


QUIST-ARCTON: ...And who is still in exile here in South Africa and may be going back to Zimbabwe?

MARTIN: I mean, if the fired vice president were to take over, I mean, what would that mean for Zimbabwe? People want change, but is this just replacing one autocrat for another?

QUIST-ARCTON: He and Mugabe - birds of a feather, war veterans, both said to be repressive. Emmerson Mnangagwa, though, is said to have business acumen and would bring in much needed investment to this economic disaster that is Zimbabwe.

MARTIN: We'll have to wait and see. NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton - thanks so much, Ofeibea.

QUIST-ARCTON: Always a pleasure. Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
Rachel Martin is a host of Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.