Months after CBS fired Charlie Rose over sexual misconduct allegations that have been echoed by dozens of women, the network’s head is now the subject of similar accusations. The New Yorker has published the new investigative report from Ronan Farrow — which was forecast by Hollywood Reporter as including “instances of unwanted kissing and touching.”
Farrow’s report details the accounts of six women who experienced various forms of sexual harassment from Moonves at CBS over a span of decades. Four described “forcible touching or kissing during business meetings” that was characterized as “routine” at the network. And two alleged that Moonves physically intimidated or threatened to derail their careers if they were to disclose the transgressions with anyone else:
“What happened to me was a sexual assault, and then I was fired for not participating,” the actress and writer Illeana Douglas told me. All the women said they still feared that speaking out would lead to retaliation from Moonves, who is known in the industry for his ability to make or break careers. “He has gotten away with it for decades,” the writer Janet Jones, who alleges that she had to shove Moonves off her after he forcibly kissed her at a work meeting, told me. “And it’s just not O.K.”
Douglas, of Six Feet Under fame, detailed to Farrow an encounter with Moonves where he reportedly began kissing her and forced himself upon her. She tried to joke her way out of the situation, describing him as a “good kisser” for the head of a network, as a way of reminding Moonves that he was her boss. That tactic worked for Douglas and he stopped, but she threatened by the executive before she tried to leave:
Moonves, she said, followed her to the door and blocked her path. He backed her up to the wall, pressing against her, with his face close to hers. “It was physically scary,” Douglas told me. “He says, ‘We’re going to keep this between you and me, right?’ ” Attempting to put him off with a joke, she replied, “No, sir, we won’t tell anyone that you’re a good kisser.” Moonves released her and, without looking at her, walked away. “It was so invasive,” she said of the threatening encounter. “It has stayed with me the rest of my life, that terror.”
Douglas described Moonves intimidating her on the set of her CBS show in the following weeks, including calls to her home where the executive allegedly berated her and said she would not be paid for her work. Other stories followed a similar path: a business meeting that Moonves leveraged into a potential sexual encounter, with abuse and intimidation following afterward.
Prior to the publication of Farrow’s report, the Hollywood Reporter relayed a CBS statement on the matter as the network launched an investigation into Moonves’ alleged behavior while attempting to soothe shareowners:
“All allegations of personal misconduct are to be taken seriously. The Independent Directors of CBS have committed to investigating claims that violate the Company’s clear policies in that regard. Upon the conclusion of that investigation, which involves recently reported allegations that go back several decades, the Board will promptly review the findings and take appropriate action.
The timing of this report comes in the midst of the Company’s very public legal dispute. While that litigation process continues, the CBS management team has the full support of the independent board members. Along with that team, we will continue to focus on creating value for our shareowners.”
Once word of Farrow’s impending report began to circulate, CBS stock immediately nosedived 7 percent within minutes. The damage may be hard to reverse for the network, which undoubtedly has quite the legal battle ahead.