Les Moonves

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CBS Board Declines Immediate Action On Moonves Allegations

July 30, 2018 - 7:19 am

NEW YORK (WCBS 880/AP) -- The CBS board of directors on Monday declined immediate action on the sexual misconduct allegations against chairman and chief executive officer Leslie Moonves.

The board will hire an outside counsel.

Lucas Shaw of Bloomberg told WCBS 880’s Steve Scott and Alex Silverman that it had not been expected that the board would fire Moonves on Monday – though there had been questions as to whether he might take a break or be suspended.

Six women, who worked with Moonves between the 1980s and early 2000s, alleged he sexually harassed them in a New Yorker article written by Ronan Farrow.

Farrow described the accusers as being “terrified” and “intimidated.”

Emmy-winning writer Dinah Kirgo, one of Moonves accusers, told NPR that she is not trying to destroy the executive, but rather trying to change a culture that allows such misconduct.

Kirgo claimed that Moonves tried to follow a job offer with a dinner invitation, saying she was “really expensive.”

Four other women described Moonves forcibly touching or kissing them during business meetings, in what they said appeared to be a regular occurrence.

The New Yorker article included a statement from Moonves reading: “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.”

Shaw said that remark could help Moonves’ case to a degree, but it is hard to know.

In recent months, Moonves had become a prominent voice in the #MeToo movement. In December, he helped start the Commission on Eliminating Sexual Harassment and Advancing Equality in the Workplace.

The New Yorker report also aid a culture of misconduct extended from Moonves to other parts of the corporation, including CBS News. It said men in that division who were accused of sexual misconduct were promoted, even as the company paid settlements to women with complaints.

Last year, CBS fired Charlie Rose as co-anchor of CBS This Morning after multiple allegations of sexual misconduct were detailed in an investigation by the Washington Post. Subsequent reporting raised questions about the response to those allegations by managers at CBS.

Shaw said he expects major change is coming at CBS News.

“I would be shocked if the leadership of CBS News was the same in six months to a year. You know, they already were facing criticism because of Charlie Rose – the former morning show anchor and stalwart of CBS News who faced just tons of allegations of harassment and inappropriate behavior. Jeff Fager, who’s a very senior executive at CBS News, has been kind of both accused of misbehavior himself, and then also kind of ignoring claims of harassment for people who work for him,” Shaw said. “It seems like of the divisions of CBS, that is the one that is most ripe for change and for reform.”

The New Yorker story also came at a time when CBS is in a legal battle with Viacom. Shari Redstone is a major shareholder of both media companies, and has been seeking to combine them.

CBS owns the CBS TV network, cable network Showtime and the publisher Simon & Schuster. Viacom controls several major cable networks, including Comedy Central, MTV and BET, and movie studio Paramount.

Moonves, 68, has fought the merger.

(© 2018 WCBS 880. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)