DeWitt Wallace Center Rescinds Futrell Award Presented to Charlie Rose

A journalism award presented in 2000 to former CBS anchor Charlie Rose by the DeWitt Wallace Center for Media and Democracy at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy has been rescinded in the wake of reports that Rose sexually harassed a number of women over the course of his career.

In a statement released today, Bill Adair, Knight Professor of the Practice of Journalism and Public Policy and director of the DeWitt Wallace Center, wrote:

Seventeen years ago, the DeWitt Wallace Center honored TV host Charlie Rose with the Futrell Award, which is given annually to recognize an outstanding Duke graduate working in journalism. The award was endowed by the family of Ashley B. Futrell Sr., the editor and publisher of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Daily News in Washington, North Carolina. When Rose, a highly regarded interviewer, accepted the award in September 2000, the Duke Chronicle wrote that it was given to people who have “exemplified the spirit of journalistic integrity and achievement.”

Two weeks ago, the Washington Post published an article that said eight women have reported being sexually harassed by Rose, who hosted a show on PBS and co-hosted “CBS This Morning.” The women provided graphic details of how Rose had made sexual advances toward them. Rose was fired by CBS and PBS.

Today, we are taking the unprecedented step of rescinding our award to Charlie Rose. I have consulted with students, faculty and staff and found an overwhelming consensus that we should take this action and emphasize that the DeWitt Wallace Center does not tolerate sexual harassment in any form.

Rose, who met with our journalism graduates when he visited Duke last year, was famous for his thoughtful questions and his gentlemanly approach. But the thoroughly reported Post story, which Rose himself has substantially confirmed with his apology, makes clear that he used his status to prey on women who worked for him. The Post story is a reminder about the important role that journalists play in holding people in power accountable – including people in their own industry.

Indeed, the recent revelations about Rose and other media figures are disturbing signs about sexual harassment in the industry. Rescinding Rose's Futrell Award is one way we can make clear that this conduct is not acceptable in any way. We do this as much in sadness as anger given his long relationship with the university.

In our hallway is a plaque with the names of our Futrell Award honorees. They are Duke graduates who have been tremendous role models for our students because of their exceptional work and because they exemplify journalistic integrity. Charlie Rose will no longer be among them.

Rose holds several degrees from Duke, including his bachelor’s and law degrees, and an honorary degree awarded at the 2016 commencement.

The university has no plans to revoke Rose’s honorary degree, though the issue was discussed at the most recent Board of Trustees meeting, said Michael Schoenfeld, vice president for public affairs and government relations.  “The honorary degree is presented after thorough review for lifetime accomplishments known at the time it is awarded. Duke has never revoked any of the more than 400 honorary degrees that have been awarded since the founding of the university in 1924.”

Conferral of an honorary degree by Duke is the culmination of a rigorous process that starts with a nomination to the University Committee on Honorary Degrees, which includes trustees and faculty members appointed by the Academic Council.   The committee then makes recommendations to the Academic Council, which must vote on every degree (honorary and earned), and then to the Board of Trustees for final approval. 

Added Schoenfeld: “To be clear: sexual harassment is abhorrent.  It robs victims of their safety, security, peace of mind and confidence.  It is an egregious betrayal of responsibility and authority, and it should be called out at every opportunity.

“As President Price stated in his message to the Duke community, the university has strong policies that forbid this kind of behavior by and towards students, faculty and staff.  We believe that everyone should be able to work or study in a positive, respectful and healthy environment, and encourage any individual who has experienced sexual misconduct or harassment to report it to the appropriate university office.”