The magazine on Friday published a story by reporter Ronan Farrow detailing claims by six women against Moonves of sexual misconduct. The alleged incidents spanned several decades, with the earliest of them reported to have taken place in during Moonves’ early days as a television exec at Fox. The revelations arrive as Moonves is in a pitched legal battle with majority shareholder Shari Redstone over a proposed merger with Viacom.
Moonves’ future is now the subject of heightened speculation throughout the industry.
“With Shari gunning for him, there’s just no way he survives this,” one high-ranking executive at a rival network told Variety, adding of the allegations in Farrow’s story, “It just rings so true.”
One CBS exec described the attitude inside the company as news of the allegations broke as “sanguine,” and tied Farrow’s story to the flood of misconduct allegations that have engulfed the entertainment industry since the publication last year of sexual-assault claims against disgraced mogul Harvey Weinstein. “It’s a tough day,” the insider said. “This is simply a culture in the entire industry that has been manifesting itself in a certain way for a long time, and now things are changing. It’s a tectonic shift.”
How the Moonves allegations impact Redstone’s attempts to reunite Viacom and CBS, which were previously one company until CBS was spun off as a separate entity more than a decade ago, remains to be seen. Moonves’ resistance to the deal is believed to be driven in part by Redstone’s preference that Viacom CEO Bob Bakish be given a senior role at the combined company.
“The big question is that if he’s booted, does Shari fast-track the merger and then put Bob in place as CEO?” one exec at a rival network told Variety.
Among the claims in the New Yorker story is an accusation by actress and writer Illeana Douglas, who described a meeting with Moonves in which he held her down on a couch and kissed her without her consent. The story also describes a culture at CBS that’s permissive of sexual misconduct, particularly in the CBS News division.
Moonves responded to the allegations in a statement Friday, saying, “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.”
Julie Chen, who hosts “The Talk” and “Big Brother” for CBS, and has been married to Moonves since 2004, also responded Friday to the New Yorker story. “I have known my husband, Leslie Moonves, since the late ‘90s, and I have been married to him for almost 14 years,” Chen wrote in a statement released on Twitter. “Leslie is a good man and a loving father, devoted husband and inspiring corporate leader. He has always been a kind, decent and moral human being. I fully support my husband and stand behind him and his statement.”