Brow Beat

CBS Sticks With Les Moonves for Now, Despite Sexual Misconduct Allegations

The network says it will commission an outside investigation, but Moonves will stay in place while it’s conducted.

Les Moonves waves as he arrives at a conference.
Moonves in Sun Valley, Idaho, in July 2017. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

On Friday, the New Yorker published the latest in Ronan Farrow’s series of investigative pieces detailing the alleged sexual misconduct of powerful men, this one describing allegations of abuse by CBS CEO Leslie Moonves over decades. The actress Illeana Douglas, for one, said that Moonves held her down and “violently kiss[ed]” her during a meeting in his office, lifting up her skirt and thrusting himself against her, and that after she rejected his advances, he had her fired from a CBS sitcom whose pilot she was in the process of shooting. (A statement from CBS says that Moonves admitted he tried to kiss the actress but “denies any characterization of ‘sexual assault,’ intimidation, or retaliatory action.”)

With the article’s publication pending, the CBS board of directors announced on Friday that it was opening an internal investigation into Moonves’ conduct. But even in a four-sentence statement, the board managed to cast doubt on the allegations’ validity, noting that “[t]he timing of this report comes in the midst of the Company’s very public legal dispute” with its parent company, National Amusements. Over the weekend, a series of supportive statements from Moonves’ female colleagues provided notice that the network was apparently closing ranks around its longtime leader. And today, despite early reports of Moonves’ suspension, the board has decided to take no immediate action beyond hiring outside counsel to conduct an independent investigation and postponing a shareholders meeting scheduled for Aug. 10, which would doubtless have been dominated by uncertainty about Moonves’ future.

In recent months, the cries have grown that “#MeToo has gone too far,” but it’s worth noting how differently a corporate entity responds when the accused man is one at the peak of his power in the industry and not one, like Harvey Weinstein, already crippled by failing financial fortunes. There are, to be sure, other differences between Moonves and Weinstein, including the severity of their alleged offenses. But the idea that accusations alone, even when relayed by a Pulitzer winner, are always enough to ruin a powerful man’s career is one that’s going to need a serious reality check.