Allegations of inappropriate workplace behavior by Charlie Rose, broken Monday afternoon by the Washington Post, are startling and dismaying in and of themselves. But the effect is compounded by the sense that Rose’s persona — that of a too-avid lecher — was on public view before the allegations came to light.
Just as 30 Rock joked about Bill Cosby or Seth MacFarlane jibed Harvey Weinstein, John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight had made sport of the uncomfortable dynamic on CBS This Morning, highlighting what the Oliver show called the “breakfast-time foreplay” of the show. In one clip, Rita Moreno performed a Marilyn Monroe impression while in Charlie Rose’s arms and declared, “Hey, you’re too cooperative!” In another, Rose grinned in a leering fashion after declaring, “I’m going to die and go to heaven right now!” about his female coworkers’ performing a song. In a third clip, compiling various instances of suggestive talk on the show, Rose said he thought he got a cold “from [costar Norah O’Donnell] last week.”
It’s worth noting that the incidents described in the Washington Post did not happen on set at CBS or to CBS employees; Rose’s empire has over time included a panoply of employees working privately for him. But his public perception as a roué followed him to air at CBS — exactly the sort of public perception that has so often in recent months come in for retroactive re-evaluation, as we realize the jokes had a grain of real truth to them, and may have been more perceptive than funny.
Correction: The original version of this story misstated the host who grinned in a leering fashion at his costars on CBS This Morning. It was Charlie Rose, not John Oliver.