Gayle King Admits CBS ‘Taking on Water,’ Hopes Network President can ‘Right the Ship’

CBS This Morning co-host Gayle King put on her “big smile” to announce the network’s new president. She praised incoming “bad ass” Susan Zirinsky as someone who will “right the ship” that is “taking on water.” Why would CBS be taking on water? Could it be the sexual abuse and harassment allegations against ex-network chairman Les Moonves? Against former co-host Charlie Rose? Against ex-60 Minutes producer Jeff Fager? King didn’t say. 

Instead, the host touted the happy news: “This morning, we have a change at the top here at CBS News. See my big smile, all 106 teeth smiling today.... Susan Zirinsky is a fixture at this network for 45 years. She's our now president and senior executive producer.” Vaguely referencing CBS’s sex abuse problems, King explained: 

 

 

I tell you, when I heard the news, I was doing the happy dance. The hula and the happy dance on the upper west side. Because I sort of feel like we were like a ship, not sinking, but taking on water.

She added, “And I feel that [Zirinsky] is somebody that can right the ship because she gets us, knows us.” King reiterated, “I’m excited about this.” Co-host Norah O’Donnell praised her new boss: “She is a great journalist. And in addition to that, she happens to have a kind heart and cares about the people that work here. A new day is on the horizon.” 

If the CBS “ship is “taking on water,” it’s because of the shocking sexual assault allegations against Moonves, Rose or Fager, the latter who is accused of groping women and threatening CBS reporter Jericka Duncan. 

In contrast, The Los Angeles Times on Sunday night detailed the toxic culture at CBS: 

The reputation of “60 Minutes” for having a sexist culture extends to its founding executive producer, Don Hewitt, who died in 2009. A former CBS News employee who said she was sexually assaulted by Hewitt has been getting payouts from the company for 20 years totaling more than $5 million.

In the past, King expressed her irritation at having to cover the sexual abuse allegations against Moonves: On September 11, 2018, she whined, “I'm sick and sick of the story and sickened the by everything that we keep hearing.” King praised Mooves for having “done wonderful things for this company and we can't forget that either.” 

On September 10, 2018, O’Donnell reminded: “Les has always treated me fairly and with respect.” 

If this all sounds familiar, it should. On May 3, 2018, after the scandal was exposed, King lamented on-air about having to cover the Rose allegations: “I don't know what to say about this....I don't know what more we can do to Charlie Rose except a public flogging. He's gone....I’m sick of handling it.”

As for the other networks on Monday, NBC skipped the story on Today. On ABC’s Good Morning America, reporter Cecilia Vega hailed the announcement: “A historic change of leadership for our colleagues over at CBS News. Award-winning producer Susan Zirinsky has been named the first woman to lead that network’s news division. We, of course, send her our congratulations.” 

She did not mention any of CBS’s abuse allegations. 

A transcript of the CBS segment is below. Click “expand” to read more. 

CBS This Morning
January 7, 2019
7:13 a.m. Eastern

GAYLE KING: This morning, we have a change at the top here at CBS News. See my big smile, all 106 teeth smiling today. Susan Zirinsky is a fixture at this network for 45 years. She's our now president and senior executive producer. Z, that's what we call her in the building, is the first woman to be president of CBS News. CBS acting CEO, that’s Joe Ianniello, announced last night that Susan Zirinsky will move up her long-time role as senior executive producer of 48 Hours. He noted that she has touched almost every part of CBS News since she started as a production clerk back in 1972. 

Wow. She was the model for Holly Hunter's character in the movie Broadcast News. Zirinsky replaces David Rhodes who will step down after eight years as CBS News President. He is staying at the network as senior advisor to Ianniello and CBS News. I tell you, when I heard the news, I was doing the happy dance. The hula and the happy dance on the upper west side. Because I sort of feel like we were like a ship, not sinking, but taking on water. And I feel that she is somebody that can right the ship because she gets us, knows us. By us, I mean this organization. She's been here for a long time. She's a smart cookie, and she's a bad ass in every sense of the word. I'm excited about this. 

NORAH O’DONNELL:  She known for her original reporting. 

KING: Exactly. 

O’DONNELL:  Her great producing skills. 

KING: Exactly. 

O’DONNELL: She is a great journalist. And in addition to that, she happens to have a kind heart and cares about the people that work here. A new day is on the horizon. 

KING: New day. New year. 

BIANNA GOLODRYGA: She’s keeping that producer title, as well. It’s pretty cool when your boss goes by Z, too, right? 

JOHN DICKERSON:  Enough energy to power the beside studio. 

KING: Keeping the producing title, but I'm going to stick with president. 

GOLODRYG: Yeah. 

KING:  Madam president. Congratulations to Susan Zirinsky. It’s great news for all of us! 

GOLODRYGA: Madam president. 

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