CBS’ CEO Leslie Moonves is the latest high-profile media figure to be hit by allegations of sexual harassment. He has dug in his heels and is refusing to step down at CBS:
CBS CEO Les Moonves will remain on the job during the network’s investigation of sexual misconduct accusations detailed in a New Yorker story published Friday.
Many other men accused of misconduct since the dawn of #MeToo stepped aside or were forced from their positions while their companies investigated the complaints against them.
But Moonves plans to continue to lead the top television network, an insider told TheWrap on Friday, before the New Yorker story posted. The insider said nothing about Moonves’ plans changed with the publication of the story.
In the New Yorker story, six women accused Moonves of sexual harassment. Four women accused the CEO of forcible touching and kissing, and two said he threatened to derail their careers. All six women said they feared speaking out would lead to retaliation, according to the story, written by Ronan Farrow.
The insider who spoke to TheWrap said more directly what CBS’s Independent Directors said in a statement Friday.
“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,” the statement said. “Along with that team, we will continue to focus on creating value for our shareowners.”
The backdrop to this is that CBS is engaged in a huge, vicious legal dispute with its parent company, Viacom. Les Moonves is unhappy with Viacom, which is currently controlled by Sumner Redstone’s daughter, Shari. He feels that CBS should belong to him and is suing to try to nullify the Redstone family’s ownership of the corporation, and has the backing of CBS’ independent directors.
Moonves is trying to blame this whole escapade on Shari Redstone. While it’s possible that Shari may have been the one to dig up the dirt on Moonves, Ronan Farrow is a credible reporter who is responsible for the big exposes on Harvey Weinstein and the notoriously anti-Trump New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. It seems extremely unlikely to me that Farrow would risk his reputation on false, easily disproven allegations.
The other interesting factoid is that unlike most of those who are hit by the #MeToo movement, there seems to be little effort building to get Les Moonves to step down. I speculate this is because unlike most of the liberals hit by #MeToo, Moonves is not easily replaceable. He has vast influence and power within the media, and is committed to liberalism.
This is opposed to Harvey Weinstein, whose fortunes had been in decline as he was a major Clinton donor and backer (and the Clintons are out of favor in the Democrats right now, being seen as too moderate) and his movie studio had been in decline for years, reducing the power of his wallet. This is why Weinstein was ultimately cut loose and stripped of his “untouchable” status.
Moonves, however, is going to remain untouchable for the time being. I would not be surprised if these allegations to quietly disappear as long as he remains in control of CBS. Of course, if Shari Redstone wins the legal battle for control of the company, then all bets are off. Palace politics, especially liberal palace politics, are always fun to watch and speculate about.
It’s also worth noting that despite the denials of the media and the politicians, there is an “elite” in American politics which is above the law and entitled to protections the rest of us do not have.