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Les Moonves Steps Down From CBS After Harassment Allegations

Sep 10, 2018
Originally published on September 10, 2018 7:01 am
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After 15 years in charge, the leader of CBS lost his job. Les Moonves was already under pressure after a New Yorker story reported six women's allegations of sexual harassment. He then resigned over the weekend after a second New Yorker story with more allegations that we will describe over the next four minutes and that many people will find disturbing. Ronan Farrow wrote the stories for The New Yorker, and he joins us once again. Good morning.

RONAN FARROW: Good morning. It's a pleasure to be here.

INSKEEP: Why did more women come forward and put their names on these stories, speak on the record?

FARROW: I think for many of these women, this was a long struggle with whether to speak. And the perception on their part, Steve, that this board - the board of directors of this company was not holding this individual accountable even after the real allegations of sexual assault had emerged, was enough for many of them to push them over the edge.

INSKEEP: Well, let's remember you had your story a number of weeks ago. The allegations were out there. The board began discussing Les Moonves's departure, sounded like he was going to go away. What were they dissatisfied with?

FARROW: So the progression here has been that - we are now reporting that a portion of this board learned about an allegation of forced oral sex that was being investigated by the LAPD in January of this year and continued to let Mr. Moonves run the company, didn't take substantive action. Then in response to this first New Yorker story I wrote several weeks ago, as you said, they also did not take any substantive action. They did appoint independent law firms to investigate the matter, but they didn't suspend Mr. Moonves at the time.

And then finally there were rumors in the past week, shortly after we began to reach out for comment to CBS, that what they were going to do in response to all of this was negotiate a graceful exit with a compensation package for Mr. Moonves of up to $100 million. And this was incredibly galling and frustrating for a lot of these women.

INSKEEP: OK. So you just mentioned a complaint to the Los Angeles Police Department. That is one of the more serious allegations here. What is it that the woman says happened?

FARROW: So these are obviously more numerous allegations. It's six additional women all on the record. They are more serious, as you pointed out. And this particular woman, Phyllis Golden-Gottlieb, who's a veteran television executive who worked with Mr. Moonves, says that he forced her to perform oral sex on him. It's a disturbing story. It's very violent. That in a subsequent incident, he exposed himself to her. And that when she rebuffed him, he, the next day, violently threw her against a wall injuring her. And then after that, he retaliated against her, moving her into ever-smaller offices at their production company and, in her view, destroying her career.

INSKEEP: And you say that - you report that she reported this many years later, in recent months, to the Los Angeles Police Department, that they investigated, that they couldn't file charges because the statute of limitations had expired, but that they found them to be credible allegations. Now in the face of all that, Les Moonves has resigned. Do you see any sign of an effort at a cultural change at the company, though?

FARROW: I think we'll have to wait and see. You know, one thing that changed radically in the wake of these additional women coming forward is there's no longer this discussion about a $100 million golden parachute. Mr. Moonves will now depart in the face of the outrage of these women with no compensation package as of now, pending the results of that investigation. They will give $20 million to Me Too organizations. And six members of the board of this company will be replaced. Whether that will change the culture there we'll have to see. A lot of these women are waiting for that answer.

INSKEEP: Ronan Farrow of The New Yorker, thanks very much.

FARROW: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.