Former CBS Corp. chairman-CEO Leslie Moonves tried to buy the silence of an actor and her manager about a decades-old sexual assault claim by arranging for the woman to be cast in a CBS series, according to a report published Wednesday by the New York Times.
The revelation that Moonves pushed CBS executives to find work for actress Bobbie Phillips and other clients of manager Marv Dauer was key in convincing the CBS board of directors that Moonves had to forced out of his job, according to the report.
The publication of the damning allegations will only add to the pressure on CBS to deny Moonves any of the $120 million severance that is on the line following his ouster on Sept. 9.
CBS is investigating claims about Moonves’ conduct during his 23-year tenure at the company. That probe is expected to be concluded by Jan. 31, if not sooner.
Representatives for Moonves could not immediately be reached for comment. A spokesman for CBS declined to comment.
The Times report alleges that Moonves assaulted Phillips during a meeting in March 1995 when Moonves was president of Warner Bros. Television. Moonves, per the report, has told investigators who are in the midst of a probe into his conduct at CBS that the sexual encounter with Phillips was consensual.
Moonves was forced out after the publication in the New Yorker of two exposes with detailed sexual harassment and assault allegations against Moonves. Dauer approached Moonves late last year to alert him that a reporter for the New York Times was trying to reach him regarding sexual misconduct allegations. Dauer told the Times that he was aware that Phillips had a disturbing incident in 1995 with Moonves.
After Dauer approached Moonves, the two began to discuss an effort to keep Phillips quiet by offering her acting work. She was ultimately offered a small part in the drama series “Blood and Treasure,” which she declined, according to the Times. Moonves pressed CBS casting executives to consider other clients of Dauer’s, despite the manager’s modest status in the industry.
Dauer told the Times that Moonves asked him to delete their lengthy text message correspondence and to not send him emails lest his CBS secretary read them. According to Dauer’s account, Moonves told him in August, shortly before he was ousted: “If Bobbie talks, I’m finished.” Phillips was not one of the women who spoke out with allegations against Moonves in stories published in July and September by investigative reporter Ronan Farrow in the New Yorker.
Phillips described the encounter to the Times as Moonves physically to force her to perform oral sex on him after he exposed himself to her. “Be my girlfriend and I’ll put you on any show,” Phillips said that he told her at the time before grabbing her neck, pushing her down on her knees and forcing his penis into her mouth.
The emergence of more troubling allegations against Moonves is the latest example of a once-powerful entertainment industry figure brought down by sexual assault allegations. The allegations that Moonves sought to use his clout to secure the silence of an actor is another sign that for prominent figures in entertainment, abuse of power, confidential settlements and payouts have been commonplace tools to keep sexual misconduct claims from surfacing.
The exposes of the past 14 months of such powerful executives as Moonves and former Weinstein Co. co-chairman Harvey Weinstein, who is now facing criminal charges in New York, have put significant pressure on companies to combat harassment in the workplace and curtail the use of settlements. Fueled by the outpouring of sexual harassment claims, legislative efforts are under way in numerous states to toughen the rules regarding workplace conduct, the use of arbitration in employment contracts and the use of non-disclosure agreements.