CBS Is Investigating Sexual Harassment Accusations Against CEO Leslie Moonves

Six women allege misconduct and intimidation in a New Yorker story

Accusations come as CBS is locked in a heated battle with parent company National Amusements. Getty Images
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The CBS board is looking into misconduct accusations against CBS Corp. chairman and CEO Leslie Moonves that appear in an explosive story by The New Yorker’s Ronan Farrow.

“All allegations of personal misconduct are to be taken seriously,” the board said in a statement, even before The New Yorker story was published. “The Independent Directors of CBS have committed to investigating claims that violate the Company’s clear policies in that regard.”

According to the Hollywood Reporter, Farrow’s story will recount allegations that include “unwanted kissing and touching,” some of which go back decades, while others are more recent.

UPDATE: The New Yorker published Farrow’s story late Friday afternoon. In the story, six women, including actress Illeana Douglas, accuse Moonves of sexual harassment and intimidation going back several decades. Four women describe “forcible touching or kissing during business meetings, in what they said appeared to be a practiced routine,” Farrow wrote, while the other two told them that “Moonves physically intimidated them or threatened to derail their careers.”

Moonves responded to the allegations with the following statement, which appears in Farrow’s story: “I recognize 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.”

The allegations against Moonves come as the 68-year-old is battling CBS’s parent company, National Amusements, and Shari Redstone, who is vice chairman of both CBS and Viacom.

“The timing of this report comes in the midst of the Company’s very public legal dispute,” the CBS board wrote in its statement. “While that litigation process continues, the CBS management team has the full support of the independent board members. Along with that team, we will continue to focus on creating value for our shareowners.”

CBS sued Redstone in May, arguing she should not be allowed to oust directors or change bylaws. Redstone subsequently countersued, claiming the company was not in its legal right to undermine her control. Despite the ongoing drama, Moonves received a standing ovation at the CBS upfront in May.

Moonves, a former actor, joined CBS as president of entertainment in 1995. He was named CEO in 2003 and chairman in 2016. CBS finished the 2017-2018 season as the most-watched TV network for the 10th straight year.

One of the highest-paid CEOs in the U.S.—he earned $69 million in 2017—Moonves is married to The Talk and Big Brother host Julie Chen.

The allegations against Moonves come eight months after CBS fired CBS This Morning co-host Charlie Rose following a Washington Post exposé that documented years of sexual misconduct accusations.

Farrow won a Pulitzer Prize for his breaking coverage of allegations against Harvey Weinstein.

@AlissaFleck Alissa Fleck is a New York City-based reporter, podcast producer and contributor to Adweek.