A New Yorker report on allegations of sexual assault, harassment, and retaliation against CBS CEO Leslie “Les” Moonves was so anticipated that it sent the media company’s stock down almost 10% hours before the story’s publication on Friday afternoon. CBS also said it would investigate the allegations before the story appeared.
And then it did. The New Yorker‘s Ronan Farrow provided accounts from several women, both identified by name and presented anonymously or with partial identification, who accused Moonves of unwanted physical contact that ranged from forcibly holding them down, putting a hand up a skirt, or thrusting his tongue down their throat.
In a statement to the New Yorker, Moonves said acknowledged making advances in some cases “decades ago,” but said he understood “‘no’ means ‘no’” and never retaliated. CBS said the company has never received any claims of misconduct against the CEO during his 24 years at the company, and has paid out no settlements. Still, earlier Friday, CBS released a statement that its independent directors were committed to investigating claims of personal misconduct. Multiple past and present CBS executives are mentioned in the article.
Five key takeaways from the lengthy New Yorker story:
1.) Moonves is alleged to have arranged solo meetings at which he made advances or assaults, a pattern similar to that reported of Hollywood mega-producer Harvey Weinstein. Writer and actress Illeana Douglas, writer Janet Jones, producer Christine Peters, and an actress who appeared on a CBS show as a police officer and declined to be identified further said Moonves made unwanted contact or advances during such meetings. Dinah Kirgo, a writer, said she turned down a private dinner with Moonves. (CBS told Farrow that Moonves acknowledged trying to kiss Douglas, but denied any more aggressive behavior, and that he didn’t touch or make inappropriate contact with the police-officer actress or Peters. CBS said he didn’t recall interacting with Jones or Kirgo.)
2.) Following Moonves’ alleged assault, Douglas had her role cut from a show in production and an exclusive appearance deal canceled with 80% of the payment not made. Douglas’s attorney negotiated for part of the payment and a contact to appear in a new miniseries. CBS denied the payment or new contract were settlements. Other women in the New Yorker article described retaliation after their alleged negative interactions with Moonves, including the loss of career opportunities and the spread of rumors that they were difficult to deal with.
3.) Farrow described an environment at CBS that allowed a culture of sexual misconduct and harassment to fester, citing numerous incidents, including those recited in a lawsuit in 2027 by a longtime CBS employee, Erin Gee, who said she was demoted after a boss told her “to have sex with a coworker with whom she was having difficulties in order to ‘break the ice.’” (Her attorney declined to comment and CBS said the matter was settled.)
4.) A Washington Post article early this year providing extensive reporting on the allegations about Charlie Rose’s purported sexual misconduct omitted mention of Jeff Faber, the executive producer of 60 Minutes, about whom Farrow details a number of anecdotes about his unwanted physical contact with employees and how he allegedly protected and promoted other men accused of a variety of behavior. Fager allegedly pressured the Post. The Post declined to comment on the specifics, stating: “Nothing that met our longstanding standards for publication was left out.” (Post contributing writer Irin Carmon, one of the two authors of the story, said while accepting an award at an event in June and at which Fager was in the audience: “The system is still powerful men getting stories killed that I believe will someday see the light of day.” She added on Twitter: “There will be more to say, and I will when I can.”)
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