Ronan Farrow gets results. Yesterday the New Yorker published Farrow’s latest piece in which six additional women accuse CBS CEO Leslie Moonves of assault and harassment. The allegations here aren’t all the same but they do have similarities. The first two accusations in the story have very similar elements. Phyllis Golden-Gottlieb worked with Moonves in the 1980s.
Golden-Gottlieb worked with Moonves at the television production company Lorimar-Telepictures in the nineteen-eighties. She was already an industry veteran who had held senior positions at NBC, MGM, and Disney. Golden-Gottlieb, who is now in her early eighties and retired, told me that the first incident in which Moonves assaulted her occurred in 1986, when he was in charge of movies and miniseries at Lorimar and she was the head of comedy development there. Moonves, she recalled, came into her office in the middle of a workday and suggested the two of them go out for lunch. Instead of taking her to a nearby restaurant, she said, Moonves drove her to a secluded area. When Golden-Gottlieb began to ask if he was having trouble finding a parking space, she said that Moonves “grabbed my head and he took it all the way down onto his penis, and pushed his penis into my mouth.” She said he held her head in place forcibly. “He came very quickly,” she recalled. “You sort of just go numb. You don’t know what to do.” Distraught, Golden-Gottlieb demanded that Moonves take her back to the office. When she got there, she said, she vomited. “It was just sick,” she told me. She didn’t report the incident at the time because she was a single mother supporting two children and feared for her career. “I realized he was the new golden boy,” she told me. “I just kept quiet.” But the incident, she said, “never left me.”
Golden-Gottlieb continued to work with Moonves, who was later promoted to more senior positions within Lorimar. She said that she had avoided being alone with Moonves whenever possible in the period after the first assault. In early 1988, she told me, she entered Moonves’s office to discuss a work matter, and he said that he was going to get a glass of wine. He left briefly and, when he returned, she said, he was not wearing pants, and was aroused. She turned away, embarrassed, and ran out of the room. The following day, Moonves approached her in her office and berated her for not sending a memo to another executive. When she told Moonves that she didn’t typically share her memos with that executive, he became enraged, she recalled. “He reaches over and pulls me up and throws me, I mean hard, against the wall,” she told me. Afterward, she said, she collapsed and “couldn’t get up.” She recalled “lying on the floor, just crying.”
After that, her career was ruined. She says Moonves kept moving her into smaller and smaller offices. Though she had told people about the incidents at the time, she didn’t take any action until last fall when the #MeToo movement convinced her to file a police report. The police said they found her account credible, but her case is long past the statute of limitations.
There’s a very similar incident involving a woman named Jessica Pallington in the 1990s, when she was working as an assistant to Moonves. Another woman, Deborah Morris, was a junionr TV executive when she was pressured by Moonves for a kiss during a meeting in the late 80s. She left, but Moonves kept pressuring her. One night he offered to drive her home and stopped the car and grabbed her, apparently to force a kiss. She hit him in the chest with her arm and fled the car. And just like that, her career in the industry was over:
After that encounter, Morris said, Moonves refused to speak to her, and she was frozen out of meetings at Lorimar. “I was hung out to dry,” she said. “And that was pretty much the end of my career. I wasn’t going to get a reference.” Morris discussed the possibility of filing a formal complaint against Moonves with acquaintances in the company’s legal and human resources departments without naming her harasser. Both discouraged her. “Who’s going to believe you? You’re no one,” she recalled her contact in the legal department saying. Morris added, “And these were both women.” Morris left the entertainment industry and moved to the Bay Area, later taking jobs in technology and health care. Morris said that Moonves’s response to last month’s allegations of sexual abuse, proclaiming his commitment to the principle of “no means no,” had frustrated her. She had told Moonves no numerous times, but said he continued his advances. “His statement was incredible. Absolutely incredible. It made me sick,” she told me. “He’s cunning. He’s calculating. And he’s a predator.”
Moonves responded to the Farrow piece by claiming that three of the six allegations were consensual, however, he didn’t clarify which three. Three hours after the story was published, CBS announced that Moonves was departing the network. An update at the top of the story reads:
Three hours after the publication of this story, CNN reported that Moonves would step down from his position at CBS. Later the same day, CBS announced that Moonves had left the company and would not receive any of his exit compensation, pending the results of the independent investigation into the allegations. The company named six new members of its board of directors and said it would donate $20 million to organizations that support the #MeToo movement and workplace equality for women. The donation will be deducted from any severance payments that may be due to Moonves.
So how much will the departing Moonves get? That remains unclear. This morning Reuters reported Moonves would receive $120 million pending the results of an investigation into his behavior:
CBS said in the filing that the settlement of $120 million would be put in a trust within 30 days and that Moonves could end up with nothing if the result of the investigation went against him.
It’s hard to imagine CBS would pay Moonves $100 million at this point. The backlash would be tremendous. And it’s not as if they need to do a lot of research to conclude he shouldn’t get the money. There are now two separate stories containing multiple allegations of harassment and assault. All CBS has to do is call up some of the women named in the stories and get them to verify the claims already in print. Moonves’ golden parachute is more likely to be a lead balloon.