[Note: This article contains descriptions of sexual assault.]
After already bracing for it—and watching its stock fall in anticipatory response—CBS is now facing a new New Yorker piece from writer Ronan Farrow, recounting six women’s allegations of harassment and assault against the network’s president, Les Moonves. The six women include actress Illeana Douglas, who says Moonves sabotaged her career after a closed-door meeting in 1997, in which she says he attempted to hold her down and kiss her against her will. Douglas was reportedly fired by her manager and agent after the incident, only starting to rebuild her career after she threatened legal action against CBS over an alleged breach of a production deal she’d already had in place with the network.
Douglas’ allegations line up with those from writer Janet Jones, who said that Moonves arranged to have a meeting with her in a locked room in 1985, then “threw himself on top of me. It was very fast.” After she pushed him away and demanded he unlock the door, he later called her, threatening to destroy her career and remarking that “‘People’s reputations are important.’”
Farrow’s article lays out a steady pattern for Moonves’ alleged behavior: Arrange a meeting, ensure that no one else is there, and then make an aggressive advance. How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days producer Christine Peters described a 2006 incident in which Moonves suddenly sat down too close to her during a one-on-one meeting and put his hand under her skirt. An actress from a long-running CBS cop show (who asked that her name be withheld) said Moonves had made several “polite” advances to her over the years, but ended their final meeting together by forcibly kissing her, against her will. Two other women recounted similar incidents in which Moonves’ interest in projects immediately vanished after they made it clear they were uninterested in his advances.
The Farrow piece contains responses from Moonves—who’s been a vocal supporter of the #MeToo movement—for every accusation, denying that most of the incidents occurred, and flatly refuting the idea that he had ever retaliated against women for turning down his sexual interests. The Farrow piece also outlines allegations that Moonves’ attitudes toward women filtered down into the CBS corporate hierarchy, creating a very loose attitude toward allegations of harassment and misconduct in institutions like CBS News. “It’s top down, this culture of older men who have all this power and you are nothing,” one producer told Farrow. “The company is shielding lots of bad behavior.”