What to Know About the Allegations Against Les Moonves, The CBS CEO Everyone Is Talking About
Nearly a year after the Harvey Weinstein scandal shook Hollywood and reinvigorated the #MeToo movement across America, allegations of sexual harassment against men in powerful positions in the entertainment industry are still coming to light.
In a recent article in The New Yorker published over the weekend, longtime CBS CEO Les Moonves was accused of sexual misconduct by six women. Read on below for a closer look at the news story everyone’s talking about.
Who Is Les Moonves?
Moonves is the CEO, Chairman of the Board, and President of CBS Corporation. He’s held a high-ranking position within the company for 24 years. Les is currently married to CBS anchor, producer, and TV host Julie Chen, with whom he shares an 8-year-old son, Charlie. From 1978 to 2004 Moonves was married to Nancy Wiesenfeld, with whom he shares three additional children: Sara, Adam, and Michael.
Les Moonves is facing allegations of sexual assault from several former business associates, including actress Illeana Douglas, writer Janet Jones, producer Christine Peters, screenwriter Dinah Kirgo, and two additional actresses who chose to remain nameless.
Who Broke the Story?
The New Yorker published an investigative article by reporter Ronan Farrow titled “Les Moonves and CBS Face Allegations of Sexual Misconduct” online and ”Trouble at the Top” in the August 6 &13 print issues.
Farrow, the child of actress Mia Farrow and estranged father Woody Allen, has long been an advocate for victims of sexual abuse and harassment. (He helped break the Weinstein allegations, though the New York Times's Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey first published the news.) Ronan’s older sister Dylan has alleged for decades that Allen sexually abused her as a child, a claim that Farrow has championed in the media.
What Illeana Douglas Had to Say:
Douglas alleges that during a private meeting in his office in 1997, Moonves held her down on a couch and began “violently kissing” her; after becoming aroused, the CBS exec lifted her skirt and thrust against her. Following the incident, Douglas was fired from the comedy series she’d been cast in. When Douglas sought legal aid, she was offered her $125,000 from CBS for the allegation to be “settled out,” and an additional $250,000 for her work on a miniseries called Bella Mafia.
What Janet Jones Had to Say:
Jones paid a visit to Moonves’s office in the spring of 1985 to pitch a screenplay idea (he was then the vice-president at Twentieth Century Fox). Jones told The New Yorker that as she sat on the couch and began her pitch, Moonves “threw himself” on top of her and then tried to kiss her. When she rebuffed his advance and asked what he was doing, he replied, “Well, I was hitting on you. I wanted a kiss.”
Later, after word of the incident, or at least the upset it had caused, got back to Moonves, he called Jones and threatened to ruin her career.
What Christine Peters Had to Say:
Peters met with Moonves in 2006 to discuss a job opportunity. As she delivered her pitch (sitting on a couch, again), Moonves slipped his hand up her skirt and touched her underwear. Peters then excused herself from the meeting.
What Dinah Kirgo Had to Say:
Dinah and her producing partner (and sister) Julie met with Moonves in the early ‘80s when he was the vice-president of development at Saul Ilson Productions. After what seemed like a successful meeting, Moonves phoned Dinah and asked her to dinner, specifying that only Dinah’s presence was requested. “‘You’re very expensive, and I need to know you’re worth it,’ ” he told her. Dinah refused and neither sister ever heard from Moonves again.
What the Nameless Victims Had to Say:
The first anonymous source, a “prominent actress who played a police officer on a long-running CBS program,” alleged that after being wrongfully fired in the mid-‘90s, she sat for a lunch meeting in Moonves’s private office dining room. He confessed his attraction to her (which he’d done before years prior) and she rose to leave. He told her to sit down so she did. When she got up to leave once more, she leaned over to give him a kiss on the cheek. In turn, Moonves grabbed the actress and “shoved his tongue down her throat.”
In 1992, a former child star named Kimberly (no last name was provided) attended a dinner meeting with Moonves and a mutual friend. When the friend left to use the restroom, Moonves told Kimberly, “Let’s go. Let’s just get a hotel room. Let’s just do this.” After Kimberly refused and explained that she had a husband and child, Moonves left the restaurant.
How did Les Moonves Address the Accusations?
Moonves released the following statement:
“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. 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.”
Moonves's wife, Julie Chen, issued the following statement on Twitter: