In the face of recent allegations of sexual misconduct against CBS CEO Les Moonves, many have been questioning the actions of the CEO throughout his tenure at the network — particularly his recent involvement in a coalition designed to put an end to workplace harassment and pay inequity.
In Ronan Farrow’s expose on Moonves in The New Yorker, he wrote that Moonves attended the founding meeting of the Commission on Eliminating Sexual Harassment and Advancing Equality in the Workplace, chaired by Anita Hill.
“It’s a watershed moment. 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,” Moonves said at a conference in November upon the organisation’s founding.
In a statement to Refinery29, a spokesperson for the commission emphasised the role that women hold in the organisation and minimised Moonves’ involvement.
“The Commission was founded by a council of four leading female executives — led by Kathleen Kennedy [of Lucasfilm] in conjunction with [attorney] Nina Shaw, [venture capitalist] Freada Kapor Klein, and [Nike Foundation co-chair] Maria Eitel. It is chaired by Anita Hill. Mr. Moonves, along with 25 of his peer executives in the entertainment industry, were later invited to join as representatives of their organisations,” the spokesperson wrote in the statement. “We are hopeful that an independent, impartial third-party investigation will result in a fair and thorough inquiry and resolution of these serious allegations.”
Moonves was one of many prominent Hollywood names associated with the commission’s founding. According to the Associated Press, founders of the organisation are expected to fund the group.
For Illeana Douglas, an actress and one of the women who accused Moonves of sexual misconduct, Moonves’ involvement in the group felt like an affront.
“I thought, Oh, for God’s sake, he has no shame,” she told The New Yorker. “I don’t think that the fox should be guarding the henhouse.”
What this will mean, if anything at all, for the organisation down the road is still unclear. But this would hardly be the first time that, as Farrow put it, that an abuser’s “private actions belie his public statements.” Before a dozen women accused Harvey Weinstein of sexual abuse, the film producer was a vocal supporter of organisations like Planned Parenthood and pledged (but apparently never paid, according to a statement from the organisation) $100,000 to Planned Parenthood months before accusations about him came out.
This should not be seen as an indictment of organisations that may use the names of people in power to get funding and publicity. If anything, it makes it clear that it is now more important than ever to pay attention to the actions — not just the lip service — of the people who do hold power, so it can’t be used against the people who need help the most.
Refinery29 has contacted a representative for Moonves and will update this post if a response is received.
If you have experienced sexual violence of any kind, please visit Rape Crisis or call 0808 802 9999.