- Six women have accused Leslie Moonves, the CEO and chairman of CBS Corporation, of unwanted sexual advances and intimidation, according to a bombshell report from The New Yorker and investigative journalist Ronan Farrow.
- Four of the women alleged that Moonves had forcibly touched or kissed them during what were supposed to have been business meetings.
- Two other women say they believe he was influential in thwarting their careers after they rejected his advances.
- Moonves admitted to making several women feel uncomfortable, but denied making unwanted advances.
Six women have accused Leslie Moonves, the CEO and chairman of CBS Corporation, of unwanted sexual advances and intimidation, according to a New Yorker report published Friday.
Four of the women interviewed by investigative journalist Ronan Farrow alleged that Moonves forcibly touched or kissed them in what were supposed to have been business meetings. Two other women say they believe he was influential in thwarting their careers after they rejected his advances.
Actress and writer Illeana Douglas, who was nominated for an Emmy for HBO’s “Six Feet Under,” described an alleged encounter with Moonves in 1997, when Douglas says she was invited to a meeting at his office. At the meeting, Moonves cut her off mid-conversation “to ask me am I single,” Douglas said.
“I didn’t know what to say at that point,” Douglas told The New Yorker. “I was, like, ‘I’m single, yes, no, maybe.'”
Douglas alleged that Moonves then asked to kiss her, to which she tried ignoring by shifting the conversation’s focus back to work. She claimed Moonves then grabbed her, “one arm over me, pinning me,” and began “violently kissing” her. The actress said she was paralysed by Moonves’ advances and felt like a “trapped animal.”
“You sort of black out,” Douglas told The New Yorker. “You think, How long is this going to go on? I was just looking at this nice picture of his family and his kids. I couldn’t get him off me.”
After struggling to perform during rehearsals the following week, Douglas alleged that Moonves called her at home to berate her. During the call, according to The New Yorker, Moonves told Douglas that she wouldn’t “get a f—ing dime” or “work at this network again,” according to the actress.
Douglas was later fired from her TV show and dropped by her manager and agent. Details of her account were corroborated by her attorney’s contemporaneous notes and several other people, including director Martin Scorsese, who said they were told of the incident around the same time, The New Yorker’s story says.
Moonves said in a statement through CBS that he admitted he tried to kiss Douglas, but “denies any characterization of ‘sexual assault,’ intimidation, or retaliatory action,” according to The New Yorker.
Five other women have also accused Moonves of misconduct:
Janet Jones, an aspiring writer in 1985, said she met with Moonves to pitch him her first screenplay in Hollywood. Moonves, who was the vice president of 20th Century Fox at the time, “came around the corner of the table and threw himself on top of me,” Jones said according to The New Yorker.
Moonves allegedly tried to kiss her, which she rebuffed. She claims that she later got a disturbing call from Moonves: “I’m warning you. I will ruin your career,” Moonves said, according to Jones. “You will never get a writing job. No one will hire you. Do you understand what I’m saying to you?”
Producer Christine Peters described a meeting at Moonves’ office in the early 1990s, where he allegedly slid his hands up her skirt and touched her underwear, according to Farrow’s reporting.
An anonymous woman The New Yorker describes as a “prominent actress who played a police officer on a long-running CBS program,” said that her deal with CBS was unexpectedly terminated after declining Moonves’ advances.
The woman said she met with Moonves to confront him on the issue. As she was leaving, she leaned over to give him a kiss on the cheek when the executive allegedly grabbed her and “shoved his tongue” down her throat.
Emmy-winning writer Dinah Kirgo said that immediately after a meeting in the 1980s, she received an questionable proposition disguised as a dinner: “You’re very expensive, and I need to know you’re worth it,” he said, according to Kirgo.
After telling Moonves that she didn’t believe his “wife would appreciate us having that kind of dinner,” Kirgo said that her agent began receiving reports that she was difficult to work with.
A former child star who was only identified by her first name, Kimberly, said that during a meeting to re-launch her career in television, Moonves abruptly said to her, “Let’s just get a hotel room. Let’s just do this.”
In a statement, Moonves admitted to making several women feel uncomfortable, but denied making unwanted advances.
“I recognise that there were times decades ago when I may have made some women uncomfortable by making advances,” Moonves said in a statement to The New Yorker. “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,” Moonves added. “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.”
CBS also issued a statement saying that it was “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 organisation that does its best to treat its tens of thousands of employees with dignity and respect,” the company reportedly said. “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.”
Julie Chen, Moonves’ wife and a host of CBS’s “The Talk,” defended her husband on Twitter by describing him as “a loving father, devoted husband.”
“He has always been a kind, decent and moral human being,” Chen added. “I fully support my husband and stand behind him and his statement.”
CBS’s stock dropped more than 6% on Friday after news reports about the forthcoming story were published. The stock fell another quarter of a per cent in after hours trading.
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