CBS’ O’Donnell reports on sexual misconduct at Air Force

December 11, 2017 GMT

NEW YORK (AP) — One reason for the steeliness in Norah O’Donnell’s demeanor the morning after the sexual misconduct accusations against former “CBS This Morning” co-anchor Charlie Rose were revealed became apparent on Monday.

She and her colleague, producer Jennifer Janisch, were in the midst of a six-month investigation into sexual assault cases at the U.S. Air Force Academy. Their first report, saying that more than a dozen current and former Air Force cadets believe their cases had been mishandled and that they faced retaliation, aired Monday on “CBS This Morning.”

Two current and two former cadets talked to O’Donnell on the broadcast about their experiences.

When “CBS This Morning” reported on Rose the morning of Nov. 21, O’Donnell spoke sternly about what had been learned about their colleague. There’s no excuse, she said. “This has to end. This behavior is wrong. Period,” she said. Rose was fired hours later.

“When I said women cannot achieve full equality in the workforce until there is a reckoning and a taking of responsibility, that line and the sternness with which I delivered it, was impacted because of what I witnessed at the Air Force academy,” O’Donnell said.

While the Department of Defense has encouraged victims of abuse in the military to report their stories, O’Donnell said that attitude hasn’t fully filtered down, and that some women have been ostracized or retaliated against for talking about it.

“That, to me, is egregious and unacceptable and it is ruining what could be fine military careers,” said O’Donnell, whose father served in the military for 30 years and whose sister is in the Army. One of the former cadets who spoke to CBS left the academy while her alleged harasser graduated.

Similar stories inspired Janisch, who said she wanted to look into the impact of sexual misconduct on women away from high-profile careers like the media and entertainment.

The current cadets had their identities obscured during the CBS interview because they were not permitted to speak to the press.

“It was incredibly brave of them to not only share their stories on the phone, but to leave the campus and risk their military careers to sit down with us to shine a light on what they believe is a systemic problem at the U.S. Air Force Academy,” O’Donnell said.