Since The New Yorker dropped its recent investigation on former CBS chairman and CEO Leslie Moonves, nearly a dozen women have come out accusing him of sexual assault and harassment. Even after leaving CBS, it was reported on Monday that Moonves would still be kept on as an unpaid advisor at the network in addition to receiving an enraging $120 million payout, which Time’s Up recently urged him to donate to their cause. A new report by the New York Times, though, contains new evidence and says that it’s now likely CBS won’t pay Moonves a cent.
The piece, published Wednesday, includes some upsetting quotes from CBS higher-ups who wanted to support the man even after women began detailing how he harassed and assaulted them. “We are going to stay in this meeting until midnight if we need to until we get an agreement that we stand 100 percent behind our C.E.O., and there will be no change in his status,” said one board member, William Cohen, in a meeting in July. Another director, Arnold Kopelson, reportedly said, “I don’t care if 30 more women come forward and allege this kind of stuff... Les is our leader and it wouldn’t change my opinion of him.”
The board only began to turn on Moonves when they discovered, after months of assuring them the accusations were false or “grossly overstated,” that he was trying to find one of his accusers a job at CBS in exchange for her silence. CBS directors were also unaware that the LAPD was involved in an eventually dropped complaint against Moonves filed in 2017 by Phyllis Golden-Gottlieb, who alleged that he forced her to perform oral sex and threw her against a wall in the 1980s.
Still, CBS directors continued to waffle on what to do with Moonves. What was once complete and total support then became a question of whether Moonves should be suspended, and then how to remove him from the board entirely. The directors eventually decided that they would agreed to pay Moonves his multi-million dollar severance, which outraged the women who went on-record with The New Yorker. Finally, directors decided to terminate Moonves but with the decision on payment still up in the air, though as mentioned, it’s widely believed to be nothing. And all of this back-and-forth on what to do with Moonves, how to investigate him, was happening while women’s stories on his abusive behavior were trickling into the press.
It’s clear CBS did everything it could to not accept and reckon with the Moonves accusations, even as he continued to lie to the company and mislead them. How many times does it bear repeating: BELIEVE WOMEN.
This post has been updated to more clearly state that whether Moonves will leave CBS with a payout is in dispute.