Post: Norah O’Donnell has created ‘toxic’ environment at CBS, may be on her way out

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Even as “CBS Evening News” anchor Norah O’Donnell has been missing from air for two days, reporting from the New York Post that says her “toxic behavior” and high price tag is causing turmoil within the network and that she’s on her way out.

O’Donnell was absent from the broadcast March 9, 2022 and March 10, 2022, with “CBS Weekend NewsJericka Duncan filling in. She was also out March 11, 2022, with Major Garrett subbing.

It’s a bit of an odd time for O’Donnell to be out, given that the Ukraine-Russia situation is heating up. O’Donnell was the only big three anchor not to journey to the region. It’s not clear if the time off was scheduled in advance, if she’s being sidelined or could be staging some kind of “protest” as discussions about her future are under way.

O’Donnell has also gone mostly quiet on social media, only retweeting a few CBS News links in recent days. Her current contract with CBS is reportedly up in May 2022.

Meanwhile, the Post reports that CBS insiders say O’Donnell has built a stressful work environment that reportedly includes a full dress rehearsal for “Evening News” about half an hour before airtime. She reportedly micromanages content, sometimes killing stories just minutes before airtime. The dress rehearsal also means that stories need to be done earlier.

One source labeled O’Donnell a “news actress” while another Post source said that producers “coach” O’Donnell’s “robotic” delivery during the dress rehearsals to make her “look more human.”

The Post also reports that O’Donnell lashes out at hair and makeup staff, causing tension in the studio and bureau.

A source says O’Donnell has a $65,000 wardrobe allowance, a figure O’Donnell’s publicist Cindi Berger denied to the Post, but declinined to provide the actual amount.

O’Donnell was notably photographed wearing a $2,700 Oscar de la Renta top during a time when CBS was laying off staffers, according to a Post source.

Berger also told the Post that the accusations are “sexist.”

Most local and network anchors have some kind of wardrobe allowance. Network anchors also frequently get other perks ranging from chauffeured car service and security to the network picking up the tab for helicopter rides into work as was reportedly the case with former “Today” anchor Matt Lauer.

While “Evening News” languishes in third place, CBS News bosses are reportedly looking for a way to cut costs to make the division more profitable.

Essentially, it boils down to the fact CBS could likely pay someone a lot less money to anchor “Evening” — when it is reportedly paying what is essentially a premium rate, especially when compared to the top rated anchor’s salary, to be stuck in last place.

O’Donnell reportedly earns between $6 and $8 million per year to work at CBS. By comparison, David Muir at “ABC World News Tonight,” O’Donnell’s top rated rival, reportedly makes between $5 and $7 million.

NBC Nightly News” anchor Lester Holt gets an estimated $10 million to anchor the second ranked newscast, though he also has nearly two decades more experience than either O’Donnell or Muir.

Another Post source says that the network may be consider “CBS Mornings” anchor Tony Dokupil to take over the anchor chair, presumably at a lower salary.

Dokupil was dispatched to Ukraine and has been featured prominently across the network, perhaps a sign that his star in on the rise even as O’Donnell’s wanes.

CBS News execs reportedly also talked with former NBC and MSNBC anchor Brian Williams about taking over, which apparently rankled O’Donnell.

O’Donnell was appointed to the “Evening News” position by Susan Zirinsky, who stepped down as news division president in 2021. A veteran at CBS, she remains with the network, however, in a cushy production deal.

Zirinsky also greenlighted moving “Evening” to Washington, D.C. out of New York, where ABC and NBC producer their broadcasts and CBS previously originated its from.

O’Donnell and her family live in Washington, D.C., a setup that required her to commute from there to New York on a weekly basis when she was anchoring “CBS This Morning” from NYC. At the time, the network was quick to point out that it was actually Zirinsky’s idea to move the broadcast to Washington.