Ronan Farrow, who already won a Pulitzer Prize for breaking the Harvey Weinstein story, has now unveiled another detailed account, which involves alleged sexual misconduct on the part of the singular most powerful and influential media executive in the world, Les Moonves.
According to Farrow’s New Yorker article, six women accuse the chairman and CEO of CBS Corporation of various forms of sexual harassment and intimidation, and dozens more claim that they suffered abuse at the company as well.
Farrow’s piece also documents a culture of sexual harassment at CBS, focusing specifically on CBS News, the former employer of another figure who had a career end due to sexual misconduct allegations, Charlie Rose.
The account by Farrow includes allegations of physical intimidation and threats to derail careers, which took place during the mid-1980s through 2006.
Among the accusers is actress Illeana Douglas, who claims that, when she attended a 1997 meeting with Moonves, he “violently” kissed her while holding her down.
“The physicality of it was horrendous,” Douglas said.
The CBS board of directors indicated in a statement that it would investigate any allegations of misconduct and further indicated that the claims would “be taken seriously.”
Moonves himself acknowledged in a statement that he “may have made some women uncomfortable by making advances.” He expressed immense regret for what he characterized as “mistakes.” However, he otherwise denied all of the claims in Farrow’s story.
Farrow’s article also contains sexual harassment allegations against a group of CBS News executives, including the former head of the news division and current executive producer of “60 Minutes” Jeff Fager. According to Farrow, CBS News executives were promoted, despite allegations of sexual misconduct that ended in settlements. Fager also responded that the allegations against him are false.
Moonves, according to Forbes, has a net worth of $700 million and is one of the highest paid CEOs, with a yearly compensation of close to $70 million.
The CBS head has been in a public tug-of-war with Shari Redstone, who has been urging CBS to merge with Viacom following the current media consolidation trend. Redstone owns a controlling 80 percent stake in CBS and Viacom via her family company.
Moonves has resisted Redstone’s proposal and has done so in court. In May 2018 CBS filed a lawsuit in an attempt to prevent a merger of the network with Viacom, accusing Redstone of breaching her fiduciary duty to CBS shareholders. The case is set for trial in October 2018.
From Redstone’s perspective, as well-heeled tech firms have bought into the entertainment space, studios have sought to merge with telecommunications companies, including ATT/TimeWarner and Comcast/Universal, and other entertainment media concerns, e.g., Disney and Fox.
Moonves has led CBS to a number one spot with regard to a broadcast network and a transformed it into a very profitable company. The success is primarily due to Moonves’s uncanny ability to pick winning television programming. He is, after all, the individual who when serving as president of Warner Bros. Television, green-lighted “Friends” and “ER.” And during his tenure at CBS, “Big Bang Theory,” “Everybody Loves Raymond,” “Survivor,” and “CSI” were launched.
The CBS head is concerned that revenues at Viacom have been headed downward and a move to combine companies would hurt earnings.
The litigation as well as the outcome of the trial, coupled with the sexual misconduct claims, are placing Moonves’s career in jeopardy. If the allegations are deemed by the board to be genuine, it is highly likely Moonves will be asked to step down, which, in turn will make it more probable that Redstone will be able to obtain her goal of a recombined CBS/Viacom.
Some media outlets have questioned the timing of the sexual misconduct charges, which have occurred not only in the middle of the company’s public legal dispute but two weeks ahead of the annual shareholder meeting and mere months before the trial begins.
This has led to Redstone’s representative releasing a statement, which puts forth a denial that Redstone had any involvement with the release of Farrow’s report.
“The malicious insinuation that Ms. Redstone is somehow behind the allegations of inappropriate personal behavior by Mr. Moonves or today’s reports is false and self-serving,” the statement read.
Ironically, Moonves has been a vocal supporter of the #MeToo movement and is a founding member of the Commission on Sexual Harassment and Advancing Equality in the Workplace, which was formed in late 2017 and is headed up by Justice Clarence Thomas’s chief accuser, Anita Hill.