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CBS CEO Les Moonves Accused of Sexual Misconduct in New Ronan Farrow Exposé

The #MeToo Movement comes for one of the most powerful men in Hollywood.

les moonves

*TW for descriptions of assault*

Another day, another high powered man abusing his power. Ronan Farrow has published a lengthy exposé on CBS CEO Leslie Moonves that contains allegations of sexual misconduct, discrimination, and intimidation. This report is especially galling, considering that Moonves helped found the Commission on Eliminating Sexual Harassment and Advancing Equality in the Workplace.

Moonves has been a prominent media executive for decades, and has been the guiding force at CBS since 2003. In Farrow’s article, he delves into the stories of several women who accused Moonves of sexual misconduct, and how the CEO’s behavior created a culture of harassment and misogyny throughout the network. Farrow interviewed 30 former and current CBS employees who corroborated the network’s complicity, which extended to CBS News and their flagship show 60 Minutes.

Actress Illeana Douglas (To Die For) was one of the women who came forward to tell her story, saying “What happened to me was a sexual assault, and then I was fired for not participating.” She signed a holding deal with CBS in 1996, and was cast in the sitcom Queens, when Moonves called her in for a meeting. She said of the alleged encounter:

As Douglas attempted to turn the focus back to work, Moonves, she said, grabbed her. “In a millisecond, he’s got one arm over me, pinning me,” she said. Moonves was “violently kissing” her, holding her down on the couch with her arms above her head. “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.”

Douglas then tried, as so many women do, to brush off the incident and find a way to extricate herself without insulting her boss. Her efforts were unsuccessful as Moonves allegedly verbally harrassed her and subsequently fired her from the show. As a result, Douglas was dropped by her manager and her agent at the time, a career death sentence in Hollywood. Eventually, she hired a lawyer, who made sure that she as paid the full amount remaining on her holding deal in exchange for starring in a CBS miniseries, a deal that was offered only after her lawyer put pressure on the network.

Similar accounts appear in the article from screenwriter Janet Jones, and more women recounting alleged abusive behavior following the exact same pattern of abuse, followed by threats intended to silence them and derail their careers. After Jones rejected Moonves’ advances, she recalls a follow-up phone call with him”

“Not long afterward, Jones received a call from Moonves’s assistant, who said that she had Moonves on the line. “My heart went into my feet,” Jones recalled. Moonves began shouting at her. “ ‘People’s reputations are important. Do you understand?’ ” she remembered him 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?’ ”

Moonves has responded to the accusations with a statement saying:

“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.”

The piece is well written and worth a read. We’ll see what (if any) consequences Moonves will face, or if he will simply skate away with a slap on the wrist like so many men in his position.

(via The New Yorker, image: Mike Windle/Getty Images for Venice Family Clinic)

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Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. An pop culture journalist since 2012, her work has appeared on Autostraddle, AfterEllen, and more. Her beats include queer popular culture, film, television, republican clownery, and the unwavering belief that 'The Long Kiss Goodnight' is the greatest movie ever made. She currently resides in sunny Los Angeles, with her husband, 2 sons, and one poorly behaved rescue dog. She is a former roller derby girl and a black belt in Judo, so she is not to be trifled with. She loves the word “Jewess” and wishes more people used it to describe her.