CBS Hires Outside Law Firm To Investigate Allegations Against CEO Les Moonves

Jul 30, 2018
Originally published on July 30, 2018 6:05 pm
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The CBS Corporation's board of directors said this afternoon that it's hiring an outside law firm to investigate allegations against its chairman and CEO. It took no further action. Les Moonves faces allegations of sexual misconduct from six women, as reported by The New Yorker.

NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik says there's another important part of this, and that's control of the CBS Corporation. That may hang in the balance. David joins us now from member station WCPN in Cleveland. Hey there, David. So remind us the details of the allegations. How serious are we talking here?

DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: They're pretty severe. They're detailed in Ronan Farrow's piece in The New Yorker late last week. There were six women making accusations against Les Moonves. In a couple of cases, you know, you can make a legitimate argument they were alleging sexual assault. That is the - in the case of one actor, he thrust her against a wall and pushed himself against her. In another case, he stuck his tongue in the mouth of a woman.

These are essentially, you know, assaults of a certain kind. And they also allege that there was retribution against them. That is, the career of a number of these women suffered directly as a result of their refusing Les Moonves' advances. Important to note - he acknowledges making advances but says that he always accepted that no means no and that he never exacted any retribution against women.

CORNISH: What else was on the table in terms of the CBS board? I mean, what did they do today?

FOLKENFLIK: Oh, my goodness, they had a conference call meeting that lasted well over three hours. And we don't know precisely the agenda. There was a very limited statement given out at the end of it this afternoon. But what we know is that there was no talk of condemning any of his actions, even the admitted advances that he did against women who were, after all, in the workplace.

They didn't suspend him or remove him, which were items on the table. What you're seeing there is a board that has been very committed to Les Moonves over the years basically saying, we're going to have this reviewed. But he's still atop the corporation.

CORNISH: You mentioned the years he has been at CBS, one way or another, for a better part of two decades, right? He's also head of the larger entertainment company that bears the same name. How important is Les Moonves to this network at this point in time?

FOLKENFLIK: In some ways, Les Moonves is like a throwback Hollywood mogul. His touch seems to be on almost everything that works at CBS. In terms of the network - it's been the top-rated network for America for the past decade. He's seen as a great wrangler talent, a great taste maker, somebody who's really run things well. CBS encompasses Simon and Schuster, the huge book publishing company, as well as the Showtime network and some other properties as well as CBS. And he led the CBS Corporation to great financial success after it was split off from its former parent company, Viacom. At a time when people thought Viacom would do well, it's actually foundered while CBS has flourished.

CORNISH: David, what's next? What should we watch out for?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, the real question of course is twofold in some ways. The question is what the law firm comes up with, whether there are additional accusations, whether Moonves can hang on. And secondly, even if he hangs on, he is right now involved - or been involved in a fight in the boardroom at CBS but also in courtrooms against Shari Redstone. She is the controlling owner, effectively, of CBS and of Viacom. And she's inherited this from her father. Right now he's trying to fend her off even as he's trying to fight for his career over these very allegations.

CORNISH: That's NPR's media correspondent David Folkenflik. Thank you.

FOLKENFLIK: You bet. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.