As the longtime head of television’s top-rated network, CBS CEO Les Moonves is one of Hollywood’s most powerful executives.
Now, thanks to a fresh New Yorker piece from investigative journalist Ronan Farrow, Moonves is under investigation due to allegations of sexual misconduct.
“Six women who had professional dealings with him told me that, between the nineteen-eighties and the late aughts, Moonves sexually harassed them,” Farrow wrote. “Four described forcible touching or kissing during business meetings, in what they said appeared to be a practiced routine.”
“Two told me that Moonves physically intimidated them or threatened to derail their careers,” he continued. “All said that he became cold or hostile after they rejected his advances and that they believed their careers suffered as a result.”
The timing of the piece is inopportune for Moonves (married to “Big Brother” host Julie Chen since 2004) as he’s locked in a power struggle with Shari Redstone, the controlling shareholder of CBS and Viacom, in a pitched legal battle for control of CBS.
One accusation came from Emmy-nominated actress Illeana Douglas, who accused Moonves of attempting to kiss and grab her.
“What it feels like to have someone hold you down — you can’t breathe, you can’t move,” Douglas reflected of the late-’90s incident. “The physicality of it was horrendous.” Among others, the actress told director Martin Scorsese about the incident, and the director corroborated to the magazine that he had heard about the story.
Writer Janet Jones’ accusation took place in 1985: “[Moonves] came around the corner of the table and threw himself on top of me. It was very fast.” Jones said Moonves told her, “‘Well, I was hitting on you. I wanted a kiss.'”
Other accusers include film producer Christine Peters and “The Tracey Ullman Show” crew member Dinah Kirgo.
Moonves told the New Yorker, “Throughout my time at CBS, we have promoted a culture of respect and opportunity for all employees, and have consistently found success elevating women to top executive positions across our company. 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,” his statement continued. “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.”
His wife Chen also reacted to the allegations, standing fully behind her husband in a new tweet.
Chen briefly addressed the allegations against her husband during Monday’s taping of “The Talk”, telling viewers that the statement she issued on Twitter is “the one and only statement I will ever make on this topic,” and that she stands by that statement “today, tomorrow, forever.”
Chen’s co-host on “The Talk”, Sharon Osbourne, also offered her support to the couple, tweeting about the “interesting timing” of the allegations, which she says “seems like an attempt to discredit Leslie before a major court case.”
Also taking to Twitter to offer support is former “Wonder Woman” star Lynda Carter, who declared Moonves is a “close friend,” adding: “I believe him and I believe in him.”
In a statement issued Friday, CBS said that the allegations against Moonves will be investigated.
“All allegations of personal misconduct are to be taken seriously,” said the network in a statement. “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.”
The statement continued: “The timing of this report comes in the midst of the Company’s very public legal dispute. While that litigation process continues, the CBS management team has the full support of the independent board members. Along with that team, we will continue to focus on creating value for our shareowners.”
Meanwhile, MSNBC is reporting that shares of CBS stock plummeted by five per cent after news of the allegations broke.
Farrow, 30, won a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting on allegations of sexual misconduct against disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, who is currently facing two charges of sexual assault.