Julie Chen remains an integral part of two CBS Corp. TV programs, even as her husband, former chairman-CEO Leslie Moonves, has left the company under a cloud. That awkward situation has given rise to speculation about whether she can continue her work.
Viewers of “The Talk,” one of two CBS series on which Chen serves as a host, have not heard directly from her this week in the wake of Moonves’ forced resignation on Sunday. Moonves was ousted just hours after the CBS Corp. board of directors announced Moonves would be leaving the company amid multiple accusations of sexual misconduct leveled at him. He has denied many of the allegations.
“I am taking a few days off from ‘The Talk’ to be with my family. I will be back soon and will see you Thursday night on ‘Big Brother,’” Chen said in a statement issued just before Monday’s edition of “The Talk” aired. Her other co-hosts on the program, including Sharon Osbourne and Sara Gilbert, have discussed the fallout from Moonves’ departure on both episodes broadcast this week.
A CBS Entertainment spokesman declined to elaborate on Chen’s statement. A representative for Chen did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Chen’s status at CBS isn’t the most pressing issue for the CBS board to consider, said Charles Elson, director of the John L. Weinberg Center for Corporate Governance at the University of Delaware. “Their careers are separate,” said Elson of Moonves and Chen. “The issue for the board is between they and him,” he added. Chen’s employment, he added, “is a secondary issue.”
But it can be a thorny one. Chen might find taking part in some broadcasts of “The Talk” awkward, particularly because the hosts occasionally talk about their personal lives. This week’s episodes would be particularly excruciating for anyone in her situation.
On Tuesday, “Talk” co-hosts railed against the disclosure that CBS may not make its investigation into Moonves and the company’s culture public. “I feel like it would be difficult to work at a company feeling like things aren’t going to be told, if things go wrong or things are done that put women or anyone in a compromising position. You want to feel like it’s going to become public,” Gilbert said on Tuesday’s episode.
“I don’t like it, because the situation is every other person who’s a powerful CEO of a public company can do the same thing if it happens again,” said co-host Osbourne on Tuesday.
Osbourne had previously expressed some qualified support for Moonves and Chen after the first wave of allegations against Moonves surfaced in the July 27 report by Ronan Farrow in the New Yorker. But in light of the troubling allegations in Farrow’s Sept. 9 follow-up story, Osbourne took a stronger stand. “How are women ever going to feel comfortable in the workplace if they still think that power and money will be held over their heads?” She added: “It shouldn’t be allowed for anybody to have the verdict kept sealed. It’s not fair to women. It will never end.”
Staying on “Big Brother” might be an easier assignment for Chen, who has been the host of the U.S. version of the program since it debuted in 2000. The job does not require personal disclosure, but straight reporting on the actions of the participants in the show, who must live together in a house while under constant surveillance, as well as interviews with them.