CBS CEO Les Moonves accused of sexual misconduct six women in New Yorker exposé
Since Harvey Weinstein's downfall, Hollywood heavyweights have been dropping like flies after accusations of sexual misconduct: The late Roger Ailes, Fox News chairman and CEO; Matt Lauer, longtime host of NBC's Today; Charlie Rose, co-anchor of CBS' This Morning. The list goes on and on, and now the #MeToo movement has struck again.
In a report from The New Yorker, six women accuse CBS chairman and CEO Leslie Moonves of sexual misconduct. Their allegations of sexual harassment and sexual assault date back to the 80's, 90's and 00's. The piece was written by Ronan Farrow, who reported on disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein's transgressions, and won the Pulitzer prize.
Moones' alleged behavior falls into a pattern: inviting a woman for a one-on-one meeting, making an aggressive, unwanted advance. Actress Illeana Douglas says in 1997, Moonves attempted to hold her down and forcibly kiss her. Writer Janet Jones says he "threw himself on top of me. It was very fast." Producer Christine Peters says that in 2006, he sat down too closer to her and put his hand up her skirt. An unnamed actress says he made "polite" advances, then forcibly kissed her. Two other women recalled similar incidents.
The women allege that Moonves used his position of power to sabotage their careers. Douglas says that she was fired from her manager and agent after the incident: "What happened to me was a sexual assault, and then I was fired for not participating."
"He has gotten away with it for decades. And it’s just not OK," says Jones. She claims that after she pushed Moonves away, he said, "People's reputations are very important." The other women tell similar stories: after getting rejected, Moonves became hostile, and his interest in their projects vanished.
Moonves, 68, has been a vocal supporter of the #MeToo movement, and helped establish the Commission on Eliminating Sexual Harassment and Advancing Equality in the Workplace. In a statement, he acknowledged "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. This is a time when we all are appropriately focused on how we help improve our society, and we at CBS are committed to being part of the solution."
CBS' Julie Chen, his wife since 2004, issued a statement of full support.
"I fully support my husband and stand behind him and his statement. I have known my husband, Leslie Moonves, since the late ’90s, and I have been married to him for almost 14 years. Leslie is a good man and a loving father, devoted husband and inspiring corporate leader. He has always been a kind, decent and moral human being."
After taking CBS from last place to first place, with hit shows like CSI and Everybody Loves Raymond, Moonves has played a major role at the network. Currently he's engaged in a legal dispute with Shari Redstone, the controlling shareholder of CBS and Viacom. Reportedly, he's trying to prevent her from merging the two companies.
As a result, CBS questions the timing of the exposé. However, they issued a statement to BuzzFeed News, stating they are "very mindful of all workplace issues and takes each report of misconduct very seriously." The New Yorker reports that sexual misconduct is pervasive in the workplace, based on interviews with 30 current and former employees. CBS disagrees with their assessment.
"We do not believe, however, that the picture of our company created in the New Yorker represents a larger organization that does its best to treat its tens of thousands of employees with dignity and respect. We are seeing vigorous discourse in our country about equality, inclusion, and safety in the workplace, and CBS is committed to being part of the solution to those important issues."
Time will tell if Moonves will fall like Ailes, Lauer, Rose and many others.