In a new report by Ronan Farrow in The New Yorker, Leslie "Les" Moonves, the CEO of CBS, is accused of sexual misconduct by six different women. These accusations are part of Farrow's look at the larger culture at CBS.
CBS This Morning anchor Charlie Rose was fired in May after an exposé of his alleged sexual abuse was published in The Washington Post. Still, Farrow reports in Friday's New Yorker piece that not everyone was held accountable under the CBS umbrella.
According to Farrow's reporting, multiple men at CBS News who were accused of sexual misconduct were promoted. The company, meanwhile, reportedly paid settlements to multiple women with complaints. Per the piece, one woman employee described the environment at CBS as a "frat house." Former CBS anchor Katie Couric told The New Yorker that the network "felt like a boys’ club, where a number of talented women seemed to be marginalised and undervalued."
"The company is shielding lots of bad behaviour," an unnamed producer told Farrow of CBS.
Moonves allegedly engaged in such "bad behaviour," per Farrow's reporting.
One such woman to go on the record about Moonves is The Skinny actress Illeana Douglas. She alleges Moonves forcibly kissed her during an act that she classified as sexual assault. When Douglas indicated that she did not wish to pursue a sexual relationship, Moonves allegedly attempted to derail her career and cancelled her overall deal at CBS, where, at the time, she was working on the TV series Queens.
When Douglas went with her lawyer Bill Sobel to receive the payment she was allegedly owed, and Sobel mentioned the meeting in which Moonves allegedly assaulted Douglas, CBS seemed more receptive. The network offered Douglas a mini-series as well as the payment she had not initially received after being fired from Queens. (CBS stated that the mini-series, titled Bella Mafia, was to fulfil Douglas' overall deal with the network. The network claims it was unrelated to her meeting with Moonves. A spokesperson for the network told The New Yorker that "the amount paid was half of what she was owed, which is not what one might do if concerned about a claim such as this.")
"All allegations of personal misconduct are to be taken seriously," the network said in a statement pre-empting publication of Farrow's report. "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."
Moonves responded to the accusations in a statement within Farrow's piece. While he denied hindering anyone's career, like Douglas alleges he did to her, Moonves did admit to making some women "uncomfortable" with his advances in the past.
"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," the CEO said. "I recognise 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. 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."
Douglas called for "real change" for sexual assault victims in a statement regarding the allegations against Moonves in a statement to Refinery29. "Real change will occur when opportunities to work at companies where assaults have occurred are no longer condoned," she said. "Speaking for myself, real change will occur when I can walk through the front doors of CBS and resume the creative and working relationship that was so tragically cut short in 1997."
Along with other prominent figures in the entertainment industry, Moonves helped found the Commission on Eliminating Sexual Harassment and Advancing Equality in the Workplace in December of 2017, shortly after Tarana Burke's #MeToo movement made its way to Hollywood. Anita Hill was selected to lead the commission. (Refinery29 has reached out to Hill for comment.)
In the past, Moonves has received criticism for the increasingly male-dominated programming on the network's schedule, which he defended.
"We do a number of pilots, a lot of them have women in starring roles," he told reporters back in May 2017. "There are a lot of women in the schedule, in this new schedule. The best pilots went at the end of the day, and we think our track record is okay."
If you have experienced sexual violence of any kind, please visit Rape Crisis or call 0808 802 9999.
This story was originally published on 27th July 2018, additional reporting was added.