sexual misconduct

The Biggest Bombshells From the Sexual Harassment Exposé on CBS’s Les Moonves

Photo: Gabriel Olsen/Getty Images for AFI

On Friday afternoon, reporter Ronan Farrow published his latest investigation in the New Yorker: a report on decades of sexual-misconduct allegations against CBS chairman and CEO Les Moonves. The article looks into the broader culture at CBS and includes claims of unwanted kissing and touching by Moonves that span more than two decades.

The report is the latest blow against the embattled CBS — which Moonves first joined in 1995 — as the network found itself in hot water following similar accusations against legendary anchor Charlie Rose. After the allegations against the now-former CBS This Morning co-host emerged, the Washington Post published a follow-up that looked into how CBS reportedly mishandled the allegations internally.

Below, some of the biggest bombshells against Moonves from Farrow’s report:

Six women accuse Les Moonves of sexually harassing them:
Farrow speaks to six women who describe instances where the CBS CEO sexually harassed them, four of whom describe what seemed to be a “practiced routine” of forced touching and kissing in the workplace. His accusers include actress Illeana Douglas, producer Christine Peters, and “a prominent actress who played a police officer on a long-running CBS program.” In a statement, 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.”

Ileana Douglas, who starred in Martin Scorsese’s Cape Fear and Goodfellas and later won an Emmy for Six Feet Under, describes Moonves grabbing her and violently kissing her during a business meeting in 1997. “What it feels like to have someone hold you down—you can’t breathe, you can’t move,” she said. “The physicality of it was horrendous.” Soon after, Moonves fired Douglas from the CBS sitcom she had been cast in and that she would  “never work at this network again.”

When she told Scorsese about the incident and said that she wanted to sue Moonves, he “urged her to be cautious about taking legal action against such a powerful person” but then did refer her to his lawyer. Ultimately, under threat of lawsuits, the network backed down, offering her a $125,000 settlement as well as $250,000 to appear in a new mini-series. Since then, she has never had a TV deal at CBS deal and believes the harassment “derailed any future career I would have had at CBS.”

Moonves had a habit of ruining the careers of women who rebuffed him:
Writer Janet Jones describes how Moonves “threw himself on top of [her]” and tried to forcibly kiss her back in 1985. Jones told a producer about the incident and he confronted Moonves. Later, Moonves called her and berated her, saying:  ‘I’m warning you. I will ruin your career. You will never get a writing job. No one will hire you. Do you understand what I’m saying to you?’”

Two women who did not detail harassment but describe Moonves making unwanted advances on them in professional environments say that Moonves jeopardized their careers. One, Julie Kirgo, met with Moonves about a TV deal; later, Moonves called her to ask her on a date, and she turned him down. She never heard anything from Moonves again, and later her agents said they had been told she was “difficult to work with.”

The culture at CBS was toxic:
The piece then delves into how Moonves’s conduct as CBS’s top dog bled into the company as a whole. Thirty current and former CBS employees talk about being harassed and discriminated against at the network, while male staffers accused of misconduct saw no repercussions and were often promoted. Farrow details many of the allegations that have emerged against the men of CBS in the past year: sexual-harassment allegations against Brad Kern, producer of NCIS: New Orleans; a lawsuit against an executive director at CBS Evening News who encouraged a staffer to have sex with a co-worker; and of course, the many allegations against network star Charlie Rose. Many women described CBS News as having a “frat house atmosphere.”

60 Minutes is “a focal point of allegations”:
The piece concludes by detailing the situation at 60 Minutes, where one producer describes the environment as “a very toxic culture toward women.” Farrow also publishes new allegations against the executive producer of 60 Minutes, Jeff Fager, who was previously the chairman of CBS News from 2011 to 2015. According to six former employees, Fager would touch women inappropriately at company parties. Others alleged that Fager shielded men beneath him who were accused of misconduct and even promoted them into leadership roles. Said one former employee: “Fager seemed to encourage that climate. It wasn’t even that he turned a blind eye toward it.”

“A lot of my memories of ‘60 Minutes’ are of other women coming into my office, closing the door, and just breaking down because of working as a woman at CBS,” said another woman who eventually left the network. “Toward the end of my time there, I thought, God, I love the stories, I love the work, but this has to be easier somewhere else.”

Biggest Bombshells From the Les Moonves Harassment Report