CBS’ CEO Leslie Moonves will remain in his position at the media company as the board of directors launches an investigation into allegations that he sexually assaulted several women over decades. According to CBS, there have been no misconduct claims or settlements against Moonves during his twenty-four years at the network. The investigation began after the New Yorker published a detailed report that included the accounts of six women who claim Moonves thwarted their acting careers after rejecting his verbal or physical advances. Some of the alleged assaults date back to the 1980s through the 2000s. Four described forcible touching or kissing during business meetings, in what they said appeared to be a practiced routine. Two said Moonves physically intimidated them or threatened to derail their careers. All six accusers said that he became cold or hostile after they rejected his advances, and that they believed their careers suffered as a result.
One of his accusers, writer Janet Jones alleges that in the spring of 1985, she had to shove Moonves off her after he forcibly kissed her at a work meeting. Producer Mike Marvin had helped broker a meeting between her and Moonves, who at the time was a vice-president at Twentieth Century Fox. The late afternoon appointment was Jones’s first pitch meeting in Hollywood. Producer Mike Marvin said that he confronted Moonves about what happened at the meeting at a gathering, saying, “Whatever happened, that girl was upset.” Marvin said Moonves became furious and the two had a screaming match over it. Not long afterward, Jones received a call from Moonves, who began shouting at her and threatening her career.
Another one of his accusers, Emmy Award-winning actress and writer Illeana Douglas, said Moonves forcibly held her down and violently kissed her. Douglas was introduced to Moonves in 1996 while she was meeting with networks, looking for a deal to write and perform for television. Moonves, who was then the president of CBS Entertainment, seemed to take a personal interest in her. “What happened to me was a sexual assault, and then I was fired for not participating.” lleana Douglas said of the incident.
Emmy-award winning writer and television producer Dinah Kirgo described meeting Moonves to discuss a potential television deal before he joined CBS. Kirgo said the meeting “went really well” but was surprised when Moonves, who was married to Nancy Wiesenfeld at the time, asked to meet her privately over dinner. “I’m not actually sure what I said in response, but he said, ‘Look, you’re really expensive and I need to know you’re worth it,’ ” she recalled. Kirgo said she made an allusion to Moonves’ wife, and her feelings about a one-on-one dinner between the two. “And the conversation ended, and he went from being very friendly to being really cold.” That was the last Kirgo heard from Moonves.
In a statement, Moonves said, “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.”