In June 2007, “60 Minutes” senior producer Michael Radutzky stepped forward at a Peabody Awards ceremony to accept recognition for the newsmagazine’s work on the Duke lacrosse rape case. Although Ed Bradley, the famed “60 Minutes” correspondent, was the face of the show’s reporting, Radutzky, an investigative television journalist of long standing, worked the piece away from the camera.
In his remarks, Radutzky praised Bradley, who had died the previous fall. “If there’s a lesson to be learned from the reporting that we’ve done on this story,” he said, “it came from Ed Bradley, who reminded us along the way that if the system isn’t working for one group of people, it isn’t working for anyone.”
Surely Radutzky was speaking of the country’s criminal-justice system, though he may well have been describing another flawed system — the one that’s supposed to protect employees at CBS News, the home of “60 Minutes.” The New Yorker’s Ronan Farrow, in his reporting on sexual misconduct allegations involving CBS Chairman Les Moonves, recounted a disturbing episode involving Radutzky. Farrow, citing accounts from “several people,” reported that high-ranking “60 Minutes” executive Vicki Gordon had alleged that Radutzky “threatened to throw furniture at her and twisted her arm behind her back, causing her to scream.” Radutzky, who quietly left the show and CBS News earlier this year, denied the allegation.
But the allegation about Radutzky and Gordon represents only one of several allegations of abusive and alarming workplace behavior by Radutzky at “60 Minutes,” as revealed in a separate investigation by this blog, based on interviews with multiple sources and begun months ago. The Erik Wemple Blog’s findings not only buttress Farrow’s account of this incident, but also highlights other alleged concerns with Radutzky throughout his career at the most storied franchise in investigative television news. According to numerous sources who worked with him and witnessed his conduct, the star producer engaged in behavior that ranged from screaming at colleagues to throwing objects — behavior they claim was tolerated for too long as Radutzky brought in exclusive “gets” that burnished the “60 Minutes” brand.
According to Farrow’s reporting, the aftermath of the Gordon incident was messy. Jeff Fager, the decorated executive producer of “60 Minutes,” “instructed” Gordon not to inform the CBS human resources office, according to Farrow. Fager denies issuing such an instruction and says that he has never dissuaded anyone from reporting problems to Human Resources. In a statement to the magazine, Radutzky countered that the incident with Gordon was “fabricated.” If so, however, the fabricators managed to snooker a whole lot of skeptical people at the investigative powerhouse. Multiple sources have relayed Gordon’s version of events to the Erik Wemple Blog, and according to one informed source, Radutzky received a serious reprimand for the alleged arm-twisting encounter.
The trouble began around the holiday season, according to a source familiar with the matter. Gordon had access to recordings of motion pictures in contention for Oscars. Somehow Radutzky felt shorted on his allotment of recordings — so he flipped out. Later on, according to Farrow, Fager asked Gordon to apologize to Radutzky “to mitigate conflict in the office.” A senior official insists that Fager didn’t request such an apology, but merely attempted to mediate the dispute between top “60 Minutes” talent.
The official “60 Minutes” response to the New Yorker’s reporting on the episode was narrow. While Fager denied having dissuaded anyone from reporting problems to human resources, there was no denial of the underlying circumstances. In response to questions from the Erik Wemple Blog, Fager said, “This was a very serious accusation, and I didn’t take it lightly, and I have never discouraged anyone from going to HR.” Gordon left the organization in 2015. Radutzky stayed until this past May.
There were other notable concerns raised about Radutzky’s conduct while at “60 Minutes.” More than a decade ago, according to informed sources, he left a threatening voicemail for colleague Tanya Simon, who reported the episode to a manager. (Simon didn’t respond to multiple interview requests.) In another alleged incident, Radutzky screamed at a female colleague from point-blank range, according to a source. “I have no recollection of any threatening exchanges with my colleagues,” Radutzky responded in an email. “Tanya Simon is the consummate professional. We had a very close, intense and respectful working relationship.”
These allegations date back years — which is what makes them so powerful and so troubling: Under Fager’s leadership, “60 Minutes” held on to an employee accused of assaulting Gordon, not to mention other allegations that point to a general pattern of troubling behavior. CBS News and its entertainment counterpart are now under scrutiny from investigations by law firms that were commissioned in the aftermath of Farrow’s story, which includes an allegation that Fager, “while inebriated at company parties, would touch employees in ways that made them uncomfortable.” He denies such misconduct. A separate investigation of CBS News — by the Proskauer Rose law firm — launched in March following The Post’s reporting on sexual harassment allegations against former “CBS This Morning” co-host Charlie Rose — and it will be folded into the newer probes. According to an informed source, these investigations encompass Radutzky’s behavior and Fager’s role in it.
More important still: Several “60 Minutes” veterans tell the Erik Wemple Blog that Radutzky’s behavior is more reflective of the newsmagazine’s workplace issues than the inappropriate-touching allegations that are now weighing on Fager. With alpha-journalists like Don Hewitt and Mike Wallace cementing the show’s workplace ethos, Radutzky joined a place where slamming doors and shouting displeasure were considered the norm. Sweeping out the vestiges of that culture can take decades.
In a statement to the Erik Wemple Blog, Radutzky referenced that culture:
Thank you for your interest in my years at 60 Minutes. I understand that you have questions about my career as well as the recent New Yorker story’s description of the intense environment in which we worked. I remain proud of the groundbreaking stories we produced.
As you know, there are multiple investigations ongoing at CBS which I welcome and must honor.
When the investigations are concluded, we can have a conversation if you’re still interested. For now, I will not be able to answer any questions or submit to an interview, given the pending CBS investigations.
An allegation that Radutzky had threatened to hurl an object at a colleague didn’t surprise his co-workers, who report that Radutzky threw items in the workplace as a way of indulging his temper. One journalist working alongside Radutzky went so far as to maintain a spreadsheet memorializing his launches. He would throw pens and water bottles, hoist chairs and mistreat phones, according to a well-placed source. The provocations were unpredictable, like a pen not having ink, a substantive editorial disagreement or a perceived slight from other producers or correspondents.
A former colleague recalls watching Radutzky go volcanic: “He took a call from a producer who was working on a separate story and they were in the process of trying to get access to film a location,” recalls the colleague. “Things escalated to him being like, ‘F––– you.’ Instead of hanging up the phone … he took the handset and slammed it down on the glass desk with all of his power … two or three times and it broke in some way … the whole thing fell off the desk.” Looking on the bright side, Radutzky remarked at the time that he’d broken only “one phone this year.”
That former colleague added, “I was really hoping that something he threw would hit me because for me that’s the line. He never hit me but he threw things near my head, he threw things near us. I remember those times as being like, ‘Wow, I’m in stuff that I’m not comfortable with. I don’t know how to get out of this and keep my career.’ ….I guess I just thought, ‘Well, this is just — you have to go through this if you want to make it.’”
Even those who didn’t work on Radutzky’s team report disruptions from his behavior. Yelling from his office was frequent, former colleagues said. And no — this wasn’t standard-issue boisterousness expected in a large and competitive news operation, according to multiple sources. “His face would begin to tremble … he was threatening people,” said a former colleague. “He was shrill and out of control.”
Loud is a corporate value at “60 Minutes.” As Fager himself wrote in a piece celebrating 50 years of “60 Minutes,” “The broadcast still very much resembled Don Hewitt and Mike Wallace in character: direct, uncompromising, lively—and loud. It wasn’t unusual to hear arguing in the hallways, and every so often Don would screen a piece and declare it ‘the worst’ he had ever seen,” wrote Fager.
Radutzky’s progress up the journalistic ladder to the pinnacle of “60 Minutes’ was impressive, although not without controversy. After attending the University of Wisconsin, Radutzky snared a couple of print journalism jobs before landing in 1981 at Chicago’s CBS affiliate, WBBM-TV. There, Radutzky won two local Emmys, as well as the full-throated rebuke of a federal court. As a researcher for WBBM anchor Walter Jacobson, Radutzky had played a key role in the anchor’s November 1981 commentary accusing cigarette maker Brown & Williamson of targeting children. Not only was WBBM found liable for defamation, but Radutzky was found to have destroyed a stack of documents bearing on the litigation. A federal appeals court didn’t buy his claim that he was conducting a mere “general housecleaning.” “We conclude that even a cursory review of his story reveals that the jury was justified in finding that it was a complete fabrication,” noted the court.
By the late 1980s, Radutzky had taken his producing skills national, working on “CBS Morning News” and “CBS Evening News.” From there, he vaulted to the staff of “60 Minutes.” Big stories followed. He secured an interview with Michael Jackson following the singer’s arrest on child molestation charges in 2003. Though the segment made headlines, some of them weren’t so favorable, as when the New York Times reported that CBS had, in effect, paid Jackson $1 million to do the “60 Minutes” session.
In 1998, Radutzky produced a memorable “60 Minutes” interview with Kathleen Willey, who accused President Bill Clinton of groping her. In a speaking engagement years later at Elon University, Radutzky lamented that just after the story aired, the Clinton White House released favorable letters from Willey to the president following the alleged incident. “I thought I had vetted Kathleen Willey completely, but obviously I hadn’t,” he said. “She and our story were discredited, and in an instant, I went from the top of the mountain right into the toilet. But if you don’t get fired, you pick yourself up, you move on, you get over it.” He nailed an interview with Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh and took on many other hard-edged stories, including the Duke lacrosse case and doping allegations against Alex Rodriquez and Lance Armstrong.
Bringing home the marquee “get” required skills that Radutzky deployed in full view of his co-workers. Former colleagues recall Radutzky as a persistent, smart and silky operator in his pitches to lawyers, celebrities, musicians and others considering a “60 Minutes” appearance. “He could be incredibly charming and then another time treat you like you’ve never been treated, ever – like, very badly,” recalled a former colleague.
His stories had a knack for withstanding the sort of public scrutiny that accompanies “60 Minutes” output. “Jeff would walk around and say Michael was the best producer we’ve ever had at ’60 Minutes,’” said a former colleague, describing Fager’s commentary to outsiders. He made nearly the same claim in a 2012 press release announcing a promotion for Radutzky. “So many of his stories during his years at 60 MINUTES stand out as some of our very best,” read a quote from Fager coupled with the news that Radutzky had been named executive producer for creative development at CBS News (he kept his senior producer title at “60 Minutes”). ”I think that one of the things I learned from him and also made him difficult was that he was never satisfied with what the story is,” said a former colleague who noted that Radutzky always pushed to get the ultimate piece of reporting for a story.
Professional mind-meld between Fager and Radutzky was a mutual and overt spectacle at “60 Minutes.” Current and former staffers said that the two were forever huddling. In his acceptance speech for the Peabody Award for the Duke lacrosse reporting, Radutzky listed the folks he wished to thank, including, “Our leader, Executive Producer Jeff Fager. Thank you. This is your award, Jeff.”
The flip side to this tight relationship was fear: Those working under Radutzky knew whom they’d be challenging if they ever complained about his conduct. Said a former colleague, “Michael made it clear to everyone that he had Jeff’s ear. … He held that as sort of a latent threat over everyone.”
Whatever his ways in the office, Radutzky doesn’t belong in the same basket as Charlie Rose, Bill O’Reilly and Mark Halperin, who all face well-documented allegations of sexual harassment. Discussions with current and former staffers never once turned up a claim that the longtime “60 Minutes” senior producer sought sexual favors or gratification from any of his colleagues. He had no flirtatious or seductive aspect. His alleged misconduct stemmed exclusively from his temper and affected both men and women.
Nonetheless, Radutzky didn’t allegedly assault a male colleague. He allegedly assaulted a female colleague. And male colleagues consulted by the Erik Wemple Blog were far more likely than their female counterparts to dismiss Radutzky’s behavior as just another hazard of working in TV journalism. “It was common knowledge at ‘60 Minutes’ that Michael Radutzky was an out-of-control guy, especially but not exclusively toward women. We all saw it, almost on a daily basis,” former producer David Gelber told Farrow. Former colleagues, Gelber told the Erik Wemple Blog, have come forward to thank him for those words.
The organization’s current gender split is a mixed bag. Two men — Fager and Bill Owens — run the place, though there are several women in the upper editorial ranks, nearly an even distribution among producers, and a 24-to-7 female-to-male breakdown among associate producers.
Fager had extended his summer vacation to await the conclusion of the Proskauer probe, though it’s unclear what his schedule will be now that the investigation has been rolled into the other probes.
As they pursue the probe, investigators will surely be seeking particulars on what “60 Minutes” managers knew about Radutzky’s conduct. They may encounter conflicting stories. As to whether Gordon filed a human-resources complaint after the alleged arm-twisting incident, two sources indicate to the Erik Wemple Blog that she did. A CBS News manager claims to be unaware of any HR complaints against Radutzky. Regardless of what landed in the human-resources inbox, however, Fager & Co. will have trouble disclaiming knowledge of the disruption caused by the longtime senior producer. It was just too well-known.
Less thunderous was his exit. Back in May, Radutzky left without a peep, as a colleague helped him load his belongings into his car. We asked the “60 Minutes” PR office whether there was any sort of celebration to commemorate his 20-plus years at the newsmagazine. No answer.