CBS CEO Leslie Moonves Accused Of Sexual Misconduct
CBS chairman-CEO Leslie Moonves has been accused of sexual misconduct by six women, including actress Illeana Douglas, who asserts that Moonves had her fired from a comedy pilot after she rebuffed his forceful advances, according to Cynthia Littleton, Managing Editor for Television of the well known entertainment industry news magazine Variety. The accusations were leveled in a report published Friday by investigative reporter Ronan Farrow in the New Yorker.
Douglas’ allegation stems from her work in 1996 on the pilot for “Queens.” Douglas described a meeting with Moonves in which he held her down on a couch and kissed her without her consent.
“At that point, you’re a trapped animal,” Douglas told the New Yorker. “Your life is flashing before your eyes.”
The allegations raise the question of whether Moonves will be forced to resign amid the heightened cultural sensitivity to sexual harassment allegations, even those that are decades-old. In a statement to the New Yorker, Moonves said acknowledged some past transgressions, but CBS has also disputed some other aspects of the story.
“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,” Moonves said. “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.”
In a statement issued after the report published, Douglas said, “Real change will occur when victims of sexual assaults are not stigmatized as whistle blowers, or people with some kind of agenda for coming forward. Real change will occur when opportunities to work at companies where assaults have occurred are no longer condoned. 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.”
The CBS Corp. chairman-CEO is one of the most powerful and influential figures in the entertainment industry. Moonves is highly regarded as one of the most successful programmers in TV history for leading CBS’ rebirth in the mid-1990s and keeping the mothership CBS broadcast network as the nation’s most-watched network overall for 15 of the past 16 television seasons.
Even before the story was published, CBS’ board of directors issued a statement acknowledging the allegations and announcing plans to mount an investigation. CBS controlling shareholder Shari Redstone also issued a statement calling for a “thorough, open, and transparent” investigation of Moonves by the board. Redstone and Moonves are in the midst of a legal battle for control of CBS Corp. A rep for Redstone declined to elaborate after the story was published around 5:45 p.m. ET.