Norah O'Donnell Opens Up About Weathering Scandal at CBS: 'It Was a Tough and Painful Year'

Despite finding her current network home — and a recent colleague — at the center of scandal, O'Donnell has remained passionate about her profession

Photo: Winnie Au

In her nearly two decades as a journalist, Norah O’Donnell has interviewed everyone from presidents to princes. Despite finding her current network home — and a recent colleague — at the center of scandal, O’Donnell has remained passionate about her profession.

In 2017, multiple women accused O’Donnell’s CBS This Morning co-host Charlie Rose of sexual harassment. He was fired from the network and O’Donnell and co-host Gayle King condemned the alleged sexual harassment on air. (Rose, 77, issued a statement at the time apologizing for “inappropriate behavior,” though he said he did “not believe that all of these allegations are accurate.”)

“I wanted to be really clear,” O’Donnell, 45, tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue. “I said there is no excuse for this alleged behavior. Harassment is systemic and it’s pervasive and it has to end.”

  • For more on Norah O’Donnell, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday

Less than a year later, Les Moonves was removed as chairman and CEO of CBS in September amid multiple allegations of sexual misconduct. (Moonves, 69, has called the allegations “untrue” and claimed any sexual encounters were consensual.)

Again, O’Donnell delivered a forceful rebuke.

“I thought long and hard about it, and I decided I’m going to revisit exactly what I said the first time because it still holds. The harassment has to end,” she says, adding, “It was a tough and painful year.”

RELATED VIDEO: CBS CEO Les Moonves Accused of Sexual Misconduct by 6 Women, Including Actress Illeana Douglas

Still, O’Donnell remains optimistic about both journalism and her workplace. With Susan Zirinsky set to take over as President of CBS News in March, O’Donnell says the network is the “best it’s ever been.”

“I have the greatest job in the world,” she says, adding, “I have a front row seat to history.”

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