CBS Films chief Terry Press said she is struggling to reconcile her personal experiences working for Leslie Moonves with a portrait painted in a recent New Yorker article of the network head as a serial harasser of women.
“As is often the case, this kind of story generates as many questions as answers,” Press wrote on her personal Facebook page. “I do not believe that it is my place to question the accounts put forth by the women but I do find myself asking that if we are examining the industry as it existed decades before through the lens of 2018 should we also discuss a path to learning, reconciliation, and forgiveness?”
Moonves is fighting for his professional life after a story broke on Friday that included allegations from six different women. CBS’s board is meeting on Monday to discuss what actions should be taken — it has already launched an investigation into Moonves’ behavior.
In a statement to the New Yorker, Moonves said, “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.”
Press has been an outspoken booster of the Time’s Up and #MeToo movements, and once threatened to quit the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences if the group behind the Oscars didn’t oust Harvey Weinstein. However, she seemed conflicted about the right course of action, noting that some of the episodes took place decades ago. Moonves has been accused of forcibly kissing women who worked for or with CBS, including the actress Illeana Douglas. But Press seemed to hesitate at putting Moonves’ offenses in the same category as the crimes or misdeeds of other accused media figures.
“To reach a point where we can accept some space between zero accountability and complete destruction, we must first grapple with the issue of equivalency,” Press wrote. “If we paint episodes of vulgar (and deeply regrettable) behavior from 20 years ago with the same brush as serial criminal behavior, we will never move forward and more importantly, we eschew the complicated nuances of context for the easier path of absolutes. Outrage is a valuable commodity… but its usefulness can be diminished by overuse. And understanding and learning from the past is the only way towards a future that reflects real change.”
Moonves is the latest big name to be accused of sexual misconduct. Dustin Hoffman, Matt Lauer, Louis C.K., Russell Simmons, and many others have also allegedly engaged in sexual harassment or, in the case of Simmons, assault.
CBS Films has released “Hell or High Water,” “Inside Llewyn Davis,” and “Patriots Day.” Under Moonves, CBS’s network has fielded such hits as “The Big Bang Theory” and “The Good Wife.” He is widely respected on Wall Street for his programming acumen. The company’s stock has been bruised by the scandal, falling more than 6% on Friday and dropping another 3% in early morning trading on Monday.