In a New Yorker report last week, six women accused CBS Corporation CEO Les Moonves of sexual misconduct, with dozens more describing an environment of sexual harassment and intimidation at the company. Today, the broadcasting company has announced that it is in the process of hiring outside counsel to conduct an independent investigation of the allegations, The Hollywood Reporter writes.
Moonves, one of the highest-paid executives in the world, is a highly influential figure who oversaw popular shows such as The Big Bang Theory at CBS. He is a Television Hall of Fame inductee whose career includes stints as the CEO of Warner Bros. Television and as a vice president at 20th Century Fox Television. While Moonves was vocal about supporting the #MeToo movement, allegations dating back decades accused Moonves of grabbing and groping women he was meeting with, in one case locking a woman in his office while they were meeting.
Moonves was also accused of fostering a toxic environment where women who did not acquiesce to his sexual demands were fired, while men who sexually harassed women were promoted. One such example, as reported by the New Yorker’s Ronan Farrow, detailed an actress who was pressured by Moonves after she did not accept his advances:
A prominent actress who played a police officer on a long-running CBS program, who was too frightened of reprisals to use her name, said that she also attended a business meeting with Moonves that ended in unwanted advances. The actress had known Moonves for years. In the late eighties, at the height of her show’s popularity, Moonves, who was then at a production company called Lorimar, requested a lunch meeting at a restaurant. There, Moonves told the actress that he had long had a crush on her but had not said anything to her because she had been in a relationship with a mutual friend. She declined his advance but thanked him for lunch. “It wasn’t offensive,” she recalled. In 1995, when Moonves became president of CBS Entertainment, the actress called to congratulate him. “He said, ‘You should have fucked me when I asked you to,’ and I said, ‘No shit!’ ” the actress told me. They laughed.
Soon afterward, CBS Business Affairs informed the actress that her series deal with CBS was being terminated. She called Moonves and expressed shock. He requested a lunch meeting in his private dining room at the office. She told me, “I went in, I thought, to make a deal.” At the lunch, Moonves told her that he intended to focus on younger talent, and that she was too old. “Then he again said, ‘I’ve always been so attracted to you,’ ” she told me. “I was so upset. I said, ‘Jesus, Leslie, I’m gonna go.’ ” Moonves asked her to sit down. She did so, pushing food around her plate until she had to leave. Then, she told me, “I walked over and leaned to give him a kiss on the cheek.” Moonves, she said, grabbed her and forcibly kissed her: “He shoved his tongue down my throat. I mean shoved.”
Since then, the CBS board of directors has gone on to organize outside counsel to investigate the claims in Farrow’s report, though THR notes that Moonves will remain active at the company while the proceedings are underway.
“All allegations of personal misconduct are to be taken seriously,” CBS told The New Yorker. “The Independent Directors of CBS have committed to investigating claims that violate the Company’s clear policies in that regard. Upon the conclusion of that investigation, which involves recently reported allegations that go back several decades, the Board will promptly review the findings and take appropriate action.”