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CBS vows to investigate Leslie Moonves sexual harassment claims

By MEG JAMES • Jul 29, 2018 at 10:00 AM

LOS ANGELES (TNS) — CBS' board on Friday addressed allegations that chief executive Leslie Moonves may be accused of sexual harassment, claims that are expected to be contained in a report that investigative reporter Ronan Farrow has been working on for several months.

“All allegations of personal misconduct are to be taken seriously,” CBS' independent directors said in the statement that doesn't specifically mention Moonves or the report. “The Independent Directors of CBS have committed to investigating claims that violate the company's clear policies in that regard. Upon the conclusion of that investigation, which involves recently reported allegations that go back several decades, the board will promptly review the findings and take appropriate action.”

The Hollywood Reporter first reported that Farrow, after months of investigation, would publish the Moonves story in the New Yorker on Friday. CBS shares dropped more than 6 percent on the news of the expected report, which comes during a tumultuous time for the New York-based company and its embattled chief.

Farrow’s report, according to The Hollywood Reporter, would detail “unwanted kissing and touching” by Moonves. It was unclear precisely when the alleged incidents occurred.

Moonves, 68, has been a titan of television for nearly three decades. Before joining CBS in 1995 as the company's entertainment president, Moonves ran Warner Bros. television, where he developed such blockbuster hits as “ER” and “Friends.” He became chief executive of CBS in 2006 when controlling shareholder Sumner Redstone divided his empire into two publicly traded companies, CBS and Viacom Inc.

Moonves has been married to Julie Chen, who hosts the CBS’ daytime show “The Talk,” since 2004. The article apparently contains allegations of misconduct, including “forcible kissing,” in the 1980s and 1990s, according to a person who was aware of the reporting but not allowed to publicly discuss it.

The independent directors, in their statement, also noted that the sexual harassment article came during a particularly bitter public fight between the company's management and board who are trying to dilute the power of Shari Redstone. She has overseen the family's voting stake in CBS and Viacom since 2016, when her father, Sumner, became too ill to participate in such decisions.

The board members seemed to suggest — but didn’t state — that it believed Redstone was planning to use the report to discredit Moonves. Some within CBS believe that Redstone might have contributed information for the article. A spokeswoman for Redstone was not immediately available for comment.

“The timing of this report comes in the midst of the company's very public legal dispute,” the CBS directors said. “While that litigation process continues, the CBS management team has the full support of the independent board members. Along with that team, we will continue to focus on creating value for our shareowners.”

A spokesperson for Moonves declined comment.

The New Yorker article is said to delve into the broader culture of CBS, which fired news anchor Charlie Rose in November after eight women who worked at his PBS talk show told the Washington Post he had groped them, exposed himself or spoke to them inappropriately. PBS also canceled the nightly talk show “Charlie Rose.” The Post also reported that managers were made aware of Rose's conduct, but CBS News said its human resources department never received a harassment complaint about Rose until after his termination.

Farrow and The New York Times were awarded a Pulitzer Prize in April for their work that documented widespread sexual misconduct against disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein that sparked the #MeToo movement.

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