CBS head Leslie Moonves has shockingly been accused of sexual misconduct in a new exposé. Learn more about the serious allegations, and the powerful man at the center of it all.
Update 2: On Dec. 17 the CBS Board of Directors decided Moonves was fired for cause and thus not eligible for his $120 million severance package. In a statement they said “The Board of Directors of CBS has completed its investigation of former Chairman and CEO Leslie Moonves, CBS News, and cultural issues at CBS,” the company said in a statement Monday. With regard to Mr. Moonves, we have determined that there are grounds to terminate for cause, including his willful and material misfeasance, violation of Company policies and breach of his employment contract, as well as his willful failure to cooperate fully with the Company’s investigation. Mr. Moonves will not receive any severance payment from the Company.” The decision came in response to a New York Times investigation that revealed the former network boss allegedly destroyed evidence and misled investigators to protect his massive payout.
Update: Les Moonves is out at CBS after 23 years with the company following another report by the New Yorker that offers additional claims of alleged sexual assault and harassment. While both CBS and Moonves will be donating $20 million to the #MeToo movement, early reports estimated Moonves’ severance would total roughly $100 million. In the most recent New Yorker article, six more women have come forward claiming that Moonves allegedly sexually assaulted them during the ’80s and ’90s.
Multiple women have come forward to accuse CBS chairman Leslie Moonves, 68, of sexual misconduct, including instances of alleged unwanted kissing and touching, in an exposé by Ronan Farrow for The New Yorker. Six women revealed to Farrow that , from the mid-1980s to the early aughts, Moonves allegedly sexually harassed them. Four women described alleged forcible touching and kissing during business meetings. Another two women said that Moonves “physically intimidated them or threatened to derail their careers.” All six women said that if they rejected his alleged advances, he came “cold or hostile,” and that their careers suffered from it.
“What happened to me was a sexual assault, and then I was fired for not participating,” the actress and writer Illeana Douglas told Farrow. “He has gotten away with it for decades. And it’s just not okay,” said writer Janet Jones, who claims she had to shove Moonves off her after he allegedly kissed her at a work meeting. All women said they feared that, until now, in the age of the #MeToo movement, speaking out against Moonves would destroy their careers. Here’s what you should know about Moonves:
1. He joined CBS as president of CBS Entertainment in 1995. Moonves was the president and CEO of CBS television from 1998 to 2003, then becoming chairman and CEO of CBS itself in 2003. That year, CBS became America’s most watched television network. He’s credited with giving CBS a new lease on life with shows like the CSI franchise, Without a Trace, Survivor, NCIS, and Cold Case. He’s in a position of such great power that he’s been known to make or break careers.
2. He has been married to CBS host Julie Chen since 2004. Fun fact: Julie started her career at the network as a CBS Page alongside Andy Cohen. The Big Brother and The Talk host married Moonves in 2004 after dating for just a few months. They have one child together, 8-year-old Charlie Moonves. Chen has not yet spoken out about the allegations.
UPDATE: Leslie’s wife, Julie Chen, has released a statement — see it below.
3. CBS says they’re taking the allegations seriously and investigating the claims. “All allegations of personal misconduct are to be taken seriously,” the network said in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter. “The Independent Directors of CBS have committed to investigating claims that violate the Company’s clear policies in that regard. Upon the conclusion of that investigation, which involves recently reported allegations that go back several decades, the Board will promptly review the findings and take appropriate action.”
4. He’s a prominent voice in the #MeToo Movement. Moonves helped found the Commission on Eliminating Sexual Harassment and Advancing Equality in the Workplace, chaired by Anita Hill. “It’s a watershed moment,” Moonves said at a conference in November. “I think it’s important that a company’s culture will not allow for this. And that’s the thing that’s far-reaching. There’s a lot we’re learning. There’s a lot we didn’t know.”
4. He used to be an actor. Before making the move to business, Moonves was an actor. He was known for playing the tough guys in 1070s shows like Cannon and The Six Million Dollar Man.
5. CBS is the same network that fired Charlie Rose for sexual misconduct allegations. CBS fired longtime journalist and CBS This Morning host Charlie Rose in November 2017 after The Washington Post reported eight women accused him of sexual misconduct — and that CBS managers allegedly knew about it as far back at 1986 (Moonves was not working there at the time). The most recent allegation was from 2017. An additional 27 women came forward with claims against him, including 14 from CBS News.