CBS CEO Les Moonves Accused of Sexual Misconduct by 6 Women, Including Actress Illeana Douglas
Leslie "Les" Moonves — the Chairman of the Board, President, and CEO of CBS Corporation — is being investigated by the network after allegations of sexual misconduct were brought against him
Leslie “Les” Moonves — the Chairman of the Board, President, and Chief Executive Officer of CBS Corporation — is being investigated by the network after allegations of sexual misconduct were brought against him.
In a piece by Ronan Farrow in The New Yorker published Friday, six women — including actress Illeana Douglas and writer Janet Jones — who professionally dealt with Moonves, 68, between the 1980s and late aughts have accused him of sexual misconduct.
“Six women who had professional dealings with him told me that … Moonves sexually harassed them. 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,” Farrow writes in his piece. “All said that he became cold or hostile after they rejected his advances, and that they believed their careers suffered as a result.”
In a statement to The New Yorker, Moonves admitted to acting inappropriately 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. I recognize that there were times decades ago when I may have made some women uncomfortable by making advances,” he 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,” he continued.
Emmy-nominated actress Douglas met Moonves in 1996, when she was meeting with networks for a TV deal. Moonves allegedly urged Douglas to work with CBS and she signed a holding deal with the network, which promised to pay her $300,000 to appear in their shows.
Douglas went on to be cast in Queens. According to The New Yorker‘s report, Moonves allegedly called her manager, Melissa Prophet, to discuss some concerns about a reading she did with her costar. Moonves allegedly asked to meet with Douglas alone in his office to discuss Queens, when she claims he sexually assaulted her.
In the expose, Farrow reports that Douglas claims Moonves pinned her, began “violently kissing” her, thrust himself against her and pulled up her skirt. “What it feels like to have someone hold you down — you can’t breathe, you can’t move,” she said. “The physicality of it was horrendous.”
“My decision was to get out of it by joking my way out, so he feels flattered,” said Douglas, who allegedly told Moonves “Yes, for the head of a network you’re some good kisser” after he asked “So, what do you think?” while allegedly sexually assaulting her.
Douglas also reportedly alleges that Moonves verbally threatened her following the meeting. “It was, you know, ‘You make me f—— sick. You are not funny,’ ” Douglas said of Moonves, who allegedly told her she would not “get a f—— dime.
CBS said in a statement to The New Yorker that Moonves acknowledged trying to kiss Douglas, but denied “any characterization of ‘sexual assault,’ intimidation, or retaliatory action.”
Douglas claims that as a result of the alleged incident, she was “derailed any future career I would have had at CBS.”
“I never auditioned or ever had any kind of television-show deal at CBS,” she told The New Yorker.
As to why she came forward, Douglas told the outlet that she wants to help other women. “In retrospect, of course, you say, ‘Oh, it’s all a crazy setup,’ ” she shared. “I was, I hate to say it, the perfect victim.”
CBS told the outlet that there have been no misconduct claims or settlements against Moonves.
The company also issued a statement about the expose, writing, “CBS is very mindful of all workplace issues and takes each report of misconduct very seriously. We do not believe, however, that the picture of our company created in The New Yorker represents a larger organization that does its best to treat its tens of thousands of employees with dignity and respect. We are seeing vigorous discourse in our country about equality, inclusion, and safety in the workplace, and CBS is committed to being part of the solution to those important issues.”
Earlier the CBS board issued a statement to CNBC, writing, “All allegations of personal misconduct are to be taken seriously.”
“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 reads.
Reps for Moonves, CBS, Farrow and The New Yorker did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.
Moonves, who has been married to CBS personality Julie Chen since 2004, has been in a legal battle with Shari Redstone, the controlling shareholder in both CBS and Viacom. CBS sued her over her decision to merge CBS with the Redstone family-controlled trust, National Amusements Inc. She, in turn, sued Moonves claiming he didn’t have the right to strip her control of the network.
“The timing of this report comes in the midst of the Company’s very public legal dispute,” CBS’s statement to CNBC acknowledged. “While that litigation process continues, the CBS management team has the full support of the independent board members. Along with that time, we will continue to focus on creating value for our shareholders.”
Farrow was the man behind some of the original reports that helped uncover the sexual abuse allegations against Harvey Weinstein (all of which he denies). For that report, Farrow was awarded the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.