Everything We Know About the Sexual Misconduct Allegations Against Les Moonves
Six women have accused CBS executive Les Moonves of misconduct including harassment, forcible kissing and retaliation in allegations spanning two decades.
On Monday, CBS's board of directors announced an independent investigation into CEO Les Moonves' alleged sexual misconduct, the result of the bombshell investigation Ronan Farrow dropped with The New Yorker last week. In the report, Farrow, who has previously investigated allegations against Harvey Weinstein and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, relays the stories of six women who accused Moonves of a range of predatory behaviors dating back to the 1980s.
Like many people whose #MeToo stories are based on experiences in the entertainment industry, some of the women Moonves reportedly preyed on dealt with his unwanted advances early in their careers, when they were, they say, keenly aware of Moonves' power to help them succeed—or make sure they failed. According to the story, other well-established women in the industry found themselves no less vulnerable to Moonves' alleged harassment and still felt unable to speak about it publicly for fear of retribution.
Many of them faced some form of retribution anyway, according to Farrow's report, either in the form of intimidation or outright retaliation damaging their careers and reputations.
Here's everything we know so far about the allegations against Les Moonves.
Who is Les Moonves?
Moonves is the 68-year-old chairman and CEO of CBS whose position at the company earned him $70 million last year. His salary makes him not only one of the highest-paid executives in his industry, but in the world, according to The New Yorker.
Moonves' career at CBS has been ascendant since he started there in 1995 as the president of entertainment. As CEO—a title he gained in 2003—Moonves oversees the company's most prestigious and lucrative television franchises, like 60 Minutes and The Big Bang Theory.
During the 2016 election, Moonves rejoiced at the money rolling into the company thanks to the "circus" President Donald Trump's bid for office made of the presidential race.
"It may not be good for America, but it's damn good for CBS," he told The Hollywood Reporter in February of that year. "I've never seen anything like this, and this going to be a very good year for us. Sorry. It's a terrible thing to say. But, bring it on, Donald. Keep going."
How many women have accused Les Moonves?
Six women have gone on record to accuse Moonves of sexual misconduct spanning decades. Four of them are named in Farrow's piece, one is unnamed, and one is identified by her first name only.
What is Les Moonves accused of?
Moonves stands accused of a range of misconduct, including sexual harassment, forcible kissing and touching, and intimidation and retaliation.
Illeana Douglas, an actress known for her roles in the show Six Feet Under and multiple Martin Scorsese films, said that in 1996, Moonves "violently" kissed her and pinned her down on the couch in his office during a private meeting Douglas understood to be about her role in a show called Queens. When Douglas tried to talk about the show's script, she said Moonves immediately interrupted her and asked her to kiss him. Douglas said she rebuffed his advances, at which point he allegedly got on top of her and forcibly kissed her. Douglas left the office in distress. Later, after appearing flustered on the set of Queens, she said Moonves called her to say she wouldn't "get a fucking dime” of money for the role, and that he'd make sure she “never [worked] at this network again.” Moonves and CBS Business Affairs later called Douglas' agent to end her deal.
Janet Jones, an aspiring writer at the time of her alleged encounter with Moonves in 1985, has brought similar allegations against Moonves. She's accused the CEO of throwing himself on top of her and attempting to kiss her when she had a meeting with Moonves to pitch an idea for a screenplay. At the start of the meeting, Jones said Moonves offered her a glass of wine, which she declined. Before she knew it, she said Moonves was on the couch with her, forcing himself on her. When Jones tried to leave, she found the door was locked; Moonves opened it after Jones threatened to scream for help. Later, Jones received a phone call from Moonves where he made threats to end Jones' nascent career, telling her, "You will never get a writing job. No one will hire you."
Christine Peters, Moonves' third accuser and the producer of the high-grossing rom-com How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days, said Moonves put his hand up her skirt during a meeting about how to target female audiences. As with the first two allegations, the incident also occurred on his office couch. Peters made up an excuse to flee the office. Despite her status as a high-powered industry titan in her own right, Peters left the meeting feeling like she'd "lost her opportunity" by rebuffing his advances.
An actress who wished to remain unnamed told Farrow said that, in the late 1980s, Moonves told her he had a crush on her during a business meeting at a restaurant. She rebuffed him, only to have him bring up the incident years later during a phone conversation in 1995. Shortly after that call, CBS Business Affairs ended her deal with the company, which involved her playing a police officer on a popular show at the time. Later, Moonves called another private lunch with her, only to profess his attraction to her again and "shove his tongue" down the actress' throat, according to her telling.
A fifth woman, the Emmy-winning screenwriter Dinah Kirgo, said Moonves once suggested they go to dinner, just the two of them, after a professional meeting Kirgo had with Moonves and her sister. Kirgo mentioned that Moonves' wife "might not appreciate" the two of them having an intimate dinner—the reason, Kirgo suspects, that she later earned a reputation for being "difficult to work with."
Moonves' sixth accuser is a former child star named Kimberly, who alleged that Moonves once asked her to leave a business dinner and get a hotel room with him. She turned Moonves down, telling him she was a married mother, and Moonves left angrily.
Has Les Moonves responded to the allegations?
Moonves provided a statement to The New Yorker, telling the magazine:
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.
CBS also denied allegations in the story on Moonves' behalf, and released its own statement in response to Farrow's report:
CBS is very 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 organization that does its best to treat its tens of thousands of employees with dignity and respect. 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.
What's next for Les Moonves and CBS?
Since Farrow's story broke, CBS's stock fell 4.5 percent. The company's board of directors is met on Monday for a "regularly scheduled conference call," when they discussed what actions to take in response to The New Yorker's investigation, according to USA Today, and ultimately decided to launch an independent investigation into the allegations.
The board is still in the process of choosing the external firm that will conduct the audit, and some speculate Moonves could step down before the results of the investigation.