Leslie Moonves, the chief executive of CBS Corporation and one of America’s most powerful media executives, has come under investigation for workplace misconduct, after a report on Friday revealed allegations of sexual harassment made against him by six women. Following publication of an investigation by Ronan Farrow in The New Yorker, CBS’s board of directors issued a statement saying the claims would “be taken seriously” and are under review by an outside law firm.
Farrow — who spent 8 months on the investigation and who won a Pulitzer Prize for breaking news of Harvey Weinstein’s alleged pattern of rape and sexual assault — spoke to four women on the record about Moonves, as well as dozens more who described a “toxic” workplace and culture of impunity across the company. Nineteen current and former CBS employees also claimed that former chairman of CBS News and current executive producer of 60 Minutes, Jeff Fager, turned a blind eye to harassment in the news division. In November, CBS fired the anchor Charlie Rose after The Washington Post published an article in which multiple women had accused him of sexual harassment, including groping. Rose had been a host of the CBS morning show since 2012.
Actress and writer Illeana Douglas, writer Janet Jones, and producer Christine Peters told the New Yorker that Moonves forcefully touched and kissed them without their consent, while writer Dinah Kirgo and one other women said they endured retaliatory action in their careers after rejecting advances by Moonves. Douglas described a meeting in 1997 during which, she alleged, Moonves was “violently kissing” her while holding her down. “It was so invasive,” she told Farrow. “It has stayed with me the rest of my life, that terror.”
Moonves, 68, became the president of CBS Entertainment in 1995 and the chief executive of the company in 2006, and draws an annual pay package of $69.3 million, according to the New York Times. In a statement provided by the corporation to the New Yorker, Moonves said: “I recognize that there were times decades ago when I may have made some women uncomfortable by making advances. Those were mistakes, and I regret them immensely. But I always understood and respected — and abided by the principle — that ‘no’ means ‘no,’ and I have never misused my position to harm or hinder anyone’s career.”
The earliest allegations in the article date to the mid-1980s, and the most recent in 2006.
Moonves is married to Julie Chen, who has hosted several CBS shows, including The Talk. “I fully support my husband and stand behind him and his statement,” she said on Twitter.
Public statements of support for Moonves were also tweeted by actress Lynda Carter, Chen’s The Talk co-host Sharon Osbourne, plus current and former CBS executives LeslieAnne Wade, Angelica McDaniel and Jo Ann Ross — a response that New York Times critic-at-large Amanda Hess termed “chilling”.
these statements from female CBS executives in support of Les Moonves are chilling. they serve only to confirm the deeply backwards and sexist culture of CBS. pic.twitter.com/zI2kP5PMQJ
— Amanda Hess (@amandahess) July 28, 2018
In recent months, Farrow reports, Moonves had been a prominent voice in Hollywood’s #MeToo movement. Late last year, he helped found the Commission on Eliminating Sexual Harassment and Advancing Equality in the Workplace, chaired by Anita Hill. “It’s a watershed moment,” Moonves told a conference in November. “I think it’s important that a company’s culture will not allow for this. And that’s the thing that’s far-reaching. There’s a lot we’re learning. There’s a lot we didn’t know.”