Stephen Colbert Addresses Moonves Allegations: ‘Accountability Is Meaningless Unless It’s for Everybody’

Julie Chen may have dodged any discussion of the allegations against her husband, CBS Corp. CEO Leslie Moonves, Monday morning on her show “The Talk,” but “The Late Show” host Stephen Colbert didn’t hold back.

Colbert opened his show on Monday night reporting that he was away for the weekend in South Carolina without internet (“They don’t have it there yet,” he joked). “But then I heard there was an article about CBS chairman  — and man I hope isn’t watching tonight’s monologue — Les Moonves,” he said.

He asked where the article ran — “quality publication,” he dubbed The New Yorker — then asked who wrote it. Learning the author was Ronan Farrow, he did a spit take. “That’s not good,” as he grabbed a drink. “Ronan isn’t exactly known for his puff pieces about glamping.”

The news clips then rolled, detailing the multiple allegations of sexual misconduct levied against Moonves. “Well, you know the old saying, How do you get in a Ronan Farrow article? Practice, practice, practice,” said Colbert.

Colbert reported that the CBS board met today and announced that they were hiring outside counsel to lead the investigation. “I don’t know why they’re outsourcing this,” he quipped. “They could just use the cast of the new CBS procedural: ‘CSI: CEO.'”

He then said he’d have to more say later when he’s at the desk, “assuming we make it past the commercial break.”

In an article published in the New Yorker on Friday, Moonves was accused of sexual misconduct by six women, including actress Illeana Douglas, who claimed Moonves had her fired from a CBS pilot after she turned down his advances; writer Janet Jones, who alleges he assaulted her during a pitch meeting while Moonves worked at 20th Century Fox; and producer Christine Peters, who accused Moonves of making an advance to her when she was up for a job at CBS Films.

Moonves acknowledged a prior lapse in judgement, but disputed other aspects of the report. “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,” he said.

The board of CBS met earlier on Monday, but in a surprise move, took no action against the CEO, instead announcing that they were hiring outside counsel and postponing the upcoming shareholder meeting.

Returning from the break, Colbert quipped that he was surprised to still be on the air after having made jokes about his boss. Noting that we’re approaching the anniversary of the launch of the #MeToo movement, he said while that milestone is worth celebrating, “It is hard to think of an appropriate anniversary gift when the entire Amazon wish list is just: ‘Stop it!’”

“Women over the past year have felt empowered to tell their stories in ways they haven’t before, which is an objectively good thing, because—and it’s strange to have to say this—powerful men taking sexual advantage of relatively powerless employees are wrong,” he continued. “We know it’s wrong now. And we knew it was wrong then. And how do we know we knew it was wrong? Because we know these men tried to keep the stories from coming out back then.”

He then joked, “I don’t remember any ads in Variety saying ‘Congratulations to me for all the butt groping!” as a fake congratulatory ad flashed on the screen.

The revelations he said have been shocking to him, but to the women he knows, “it brings a welcome sense of relief that something is finally happening,” he said.

He acknowledged that “as a middle-aged guy with some power in the entertainment industry,” he might not be the person to address the issue. But given that he works at CBS, people have been asking his opinion. “In a situation like this, I’d normally call Les,” he said. “But over the past year, there’s been a lot of discussion about whether the disappearing of the accused from public life is the right thing to do, and I get there should be levels of response, but I understand why the disappearing happens.”

He went on to quote John F. Kennedy: “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible, make violent revolution inevitable.” So, he said, “And for so long for women in the workplace, there was no change, no justice for the abused, so we shouldn’t be surprised that when the change comes, it comes radically. This roar is a natural backlash to all that silence.”

“I do believe in accountability, and not just for politicians you disagree with,” he continued. “Everybody believes in accountability until it’s their guy, and make no mistake, Les Moonves is my guy. He hired me to sit in this chair. He stood behind this show while we were struggling to find our voice. He gave us the time and the resources to succeed. And he has stood by us when people were mad at me, and I like working for him.

“But accountability is meaningless unless it’s for everybody, whether it’s the leader of a network or the leader of the free world.”

Colbert also discussed the allegations made against Fox News host Kimberly Guilfoyle (“someone I don’t work for,” he quipped), who also stands accused of sexual misconduct. “That’s where we’re at: The best news of the day is that women can also be guilt of sexual harassment,” he said. “What a trailblazer! You go, girl.”