Three women filed a lawsuit in New York state court Friday against Charlie Rose and CBS News, alleging the television host had sexually harassed them and the network had been “fully aware” of his behavior toward women.
The litigation marks the first known legal filing against Rose concerning sexual harassment. His alleged inappropriate behavior toward a total of 35 women has been the subject of two Washington Post investigations in the past five months.
“This case is about blatant and repeated sexual harassment committed by Charlie Rose, a 70+ year old powerful American television journalist and talk show host, against three junior female employees in their 20s, and subsequent unlawful retaliation,” according to the complaint, which describes Rose’s conduct as “deplorable.”
“The claims in the lawsuit filed today against Mr. Rose are without merit,” Rose’s attorney Bob Bodian said in a statement issued late Friday night. CBS News did not respond to a request for comment.
CBS News President David Rhodes has said publicly there “was not knowledge” of Rose’s alleged sexual harassment.
In November, The Washington Post reported on allegations of eight women who said Rose sexually harassed them at his namesake PBS program.
The Post published a follow-up report this week that revealed an additional 27 accusers who said Rose had acted inappropriately toward them, including groping their bodies and making lewd sexual remarks, among other acts. Fourteen of the women worked at CBS News, where, The Post reported, three managers had been warned about him, as far back as 1986 and as recently as 2017.
Two of the plaintiffs, Brooks Harris and Chelsea Wei, worked with Rose at “CBS This Morning,” where he was a co-anchor until his Nov. 21 firing. Harris left CBS last April to work for Rose directly at PBS, where the third plaintiff, Sydney McNeal, also worked as one of his assistants. Both Harris and McNeal lost their jobs after Rose’s PBS show was canceled in the wake of The Post’s reporting.
The lawsuit alleges Wei talked last April to Ryan Kadro, the executive producer of “CBS This Morning,” about the attention Rose was paying toward Harris, which Wei said involved out-of-the-office lunches and an attention to Harris she perceived as unusual.
“Ms. Wei also told Mr. Kadro words to the effect of, ‘I’m telling you in case you have a lawsuit on your hands,’ ” the suit alleges.
In an email to The Post before the suit, Kadro said he did not believe Wei raised the word “lawsuit” with him.
But, according to the complaint, the defendants “unlawfully failed and refused to take any remedial action and allowed Mr. Rose to continue to sexually harass” both the plaintiffs and other employees.
Among the allegations: Rose repeatedly sexually touched the women, including “caressing and touching their arms, shoulders, waist and back, pulling them close to his body and kissing them on the cheek.”
Rose repeatedly required Harris to have lunch and dinner with him, where he would place his hands on her thigh and would point at other women and call them prostitutes, according to the claim.
The lawsuit also alleges Rose asked Harris and McNeal to share details of their sex lives, “boasted of his own sexual conquests” and suggested the two women should engage in a sexual relationship with each other.
The allegations include details of comments Rose made about their intelligence and their ethnicity.
In one case, the lawsuit alleges, he referred to Wei as a “China Doll” and used an expletive while calling her an “idiot” for booking a flight that did not have flat folding seats.
The retaliation component of the lawsuit stems from Wei’s account that she was removed from her position as an anchor assistant several months after she filed a complaint with CBS human resources on Nov. 30, just days after Rose was fired. Her complaint included allegations against Kadro, whom she said kicked her chair as a show of intimidation.
Kadro did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
CBS never responded to the complaint, according to the lawsuit, which states the network “subsequently questioned the accuracy of her timesheets and told her that she would be replaced as an anchor assistant and would not be able to apply to work for the show’s new co-anchor, John Dickerson.”
Wei has taken medical leave from the show.
CBS News, which has said it had no human resources complaints about Rose, issued a statement earlier this week in response to the new allegations revealed by The Post. “Since we terminated Charlie Rose, we’ve worked to strengthen existing systems to ensure a safe environment where everyone can do their best work,” the statement said.
The women’s attorney, Ken Goldberg, of the Manhattan firm Goldberg & Fliegel, said his clients have a strong claim under New York City Human Rights law.
Goldberg said he first reached out to CBS and Rose in February to make them aware of the potential claims.
The lawsuit also alleges that in addition to Rose, “one or more other high level male executives at CBS committed acts of sexual harassment against women.”
The complaint does not identify the executives.