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With New Yorker expose looming, CBS to investigate Les Moonves sexual harassment claims

CBS shares are already down more than five percent as the public awaits Ronan Farrow's latest story.

Les Moonves attends the 2018 Simon Wiesenthal Center National Tribute Dinner Honoring Leslie Moonves at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on March 22, 2018 in Beverly Hills, California. CREDIT: Tara Ziemba/Getty Images
Les Moonves attends the 2018 Simon Wiesenthal Center National Tribute Dinner Honoring Leslie Moonves at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on March 22, 2018 in Beverly Hills, California. CREDIT: Tara Ziemba/Getty Images

Les Moonves, the CEO of CBS, is among the most powerful titans in television. He is also, according to the Hollywood Reporter, the subject of Ronan Farrow’s latest investigation into sexual violence in the entertainment industry.

In a story the New Yorker is expected to publish later today, Moonves is reportedly accused of sexual misconduct, including unwanted kissing and touching that occurred more than 20 years ago.

It’s quite the testament to both the surreal #MeToo moment we’re in and the power of Farrow’s reporting — his Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation into Harvey Weinstein’s alleged decades of sexual predation, and subsequent pieces on the vast network of shadowy enablers that facilitated Weinstein’s reported abuses — that all it took was the promise of the story, sight unseen, for CBS shares to drop more than five percent.

As word began to circulate about the imminent publication of Farrow’s story, the CBS board released a statement that, though it did not mention Moonves by name, expressed a “commitment” to investigating any claims of “personal misconduct,” all of which “are to be taken seriously.”

“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.”

Farrow’s story arrives at an especially precarious time for CBS. As the L.A. Times describes it, a “particularly bitter public fight” is ongoing “between the company’s management and board and CBS controlling shareholder Shari Redstone. The board seemed to suggest — but did not state — that it believed Redstone was planning to use the report to discredit Moonves.”

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Redstone wanted to merge CBS and Viacom, and CBS pushed back. Redstone controls the companies through voting shares in her family-controlled trust, National Amusements Inc.

THR reports that Farrow has been working on his investigation for several months.

Speaking of alleged sexual violence and CBS employees: When news about Charlie Rose’s alleged pattern of sexual harassment and assault was revealed by the Washington Post, it came out that three managers were warned about Rose’s “widespread” misconduct over the course of 30 years, and did nothing with that information.

Fourteen CBS News employees told the Post that Rose sexually harassed them. “Concerns about Rose’s behavior were flagged to managers at the network as early as 1986 and as recently as April 2017, when Rose was co-anchor of CBS This Morning, according to multiple people with firsthand knowledge of the conversations.”

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Moonves has been at CBS since 1995. And, as THR notes, he has presided over enormously successful years there. “In 2017, CBS ranked as the most-watched network in terms of total viewers (as it had done for nine consecutive years).” He has been chairman since 2016.