Two CBS News Execs Submit Exit Terms

Feb 28, 2005  •  Post A Comment

Two of the three CBS journalists asked to resign after an resignations into a Sept. 8 “60 Minutes Wednesday” story built around unauthenticated documents have submitted their resignations to CBS News nearly two months after the exit negotiations began.

The resolutions were reached late last week with network news veteran Betsy West, who was senior VP of prime time for CBS News, and CBS News veteran Mary Murphy, who was promoted to senior broadcast producer of “60 Minutes Wednesday” during its first season under new management.

Still unresolved is the situation with “60 Minutes Wednesday” executive producer Josh Howard, who also was asked to resign but who reportedly is holding out for an apology for and retraction of characterizations of his role in the so-called Memogate by Leslie Moonves, chairman and CEO of CBS and co-president and co-chief operating officer of Viacom.

Mary Mapes, the producer of the story portraying President George W. Bush as a privileged slacker during his Vietnam-era service in the Texas Air National Guard, was fired in early January just before the investigation was made public.

Dan Rather, who was the correspondent for the story, announced last fall that he will step down as anchor of “CBS Evening News” on Wednesday, March 9, after 24 years in the post, and will focus on reporting for “60 Minutes Wednesday” and the original “60 Minutes.”

In a statement about Ms. West, who has seen peers rally to her side, CBS said, “During her six-year tenure overseeing ’60 Minutes,’ ’60 Minutes Wednesday’ and ’48 Hours,’ Ms. West served with integrity, professionalism and talent. CBS recognizes Ms. West’s many positive contributions to the CBS News division and wishes her well.”

Ms. West, who attended Sunday’s Academy Awards ceremony with her husband, Oren Jacoby, who was nominated for a short-documentary Oscar for “Sister Rose’s Passion,” said in a statement: “I am proud of my 25-year career in television and of my track record at CBS News, and I am looking forward to the next chapter in my professional life. “

Ms. Murphy said in a statement that she has “enjoyed wonderful working relationships with many talented and dedicated journalists” at CBS News. “I wish my good colleagues well and I look forward to moving on in my career.”

Some of Mr. Rather’s best-known CBS News colleagues were less collegial in remarks to writer Ken Auletta in the current New Yorker. “60 Minutes” founder Don Hewitt, correspondent Mike Wallace and commentator Andy Rooney tell Mr. Auletta they have preferred watching “ABC World News Tonight With Peter Jennings” and “NBC Nightly News” with former anchor Tom Brokaw rather than Mr. Rather’s third-ranked “CBS Evening News.” Mr. Rather’s predecessor, Walter Cronkite, said Mr. Rather looked as if he were “showboating.”

Meanwhile, Mr. Rather is scheduled to make his 16th guest appearance on “Late Show With David Letterman” Thursday night and to look back over his CBS News career in an hour-long special pre-empting “60 Minutes Wednesday” at 8 p.m. (ET) March 9.