Earlier this month the NY Times got its hands on a pre-release version of a report on former CBS CEO Les Moonves. The report, prepared by a law firm hired to investigate Moonves’ behavior, concluded the former CEO was “evasive and untruthful” when talking with investigators. The report also included new allegation including that he’d kept a woman on staff who was “on call” to provide him with oral sex.
When the Times published its story the expectation was that the board would not reach a conclusion on Moonves’ case until next month but two weeks later the board announced it had decided Moonves would get none of the $120 million severance stipulated by his contract. From USA Today:
In a statement, the network said the board of directors had completed its investigation of Moonves’ alleged behavior, plus its investigations of CBS News and “cultural issues” at the network.
“With regard to Mr. Moonves, we have determined that there are grounds to terminate for cause, including his willful and material misfeasance, violation of Company policies and breach of his employment contract, as well as his willful failure to cooperate fully with the Company’s investigation. Mr. Moonves will not receive any severance payment from the Company,” the statement said.
A lawyer for Moonves, 69, Andrew Levander, dismissed the decision as “foreordained” and “without merit,” in a statement to USA TODAY.
“Consistent with the pattern of leaks that have permeated this ‘process,’ the press was informed of these baseless conclusions before Mr. Moonves, further damaging his name, reputation, career and legacy,” Levander said in the statement. “Mr. Moonves vehemently denies any nonconsensual sexual relations and cooperated extensively and fully with investigators.”
USA Today reports one reason the CBS board may have accelerated its timeline on this decision is another sexual harassment settlement which made news last week. From the NY Times:
In March 2017, Eliza Dushku, an actress known for her work on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” signed on to play a major role in three episodes of the CBS prime-time drama “Bull,” and there were plans to make her a full-time cast member.
Her time on the set began promisingly. The show’s star, Michael Weatherly — a mainstay of CBS’s prime-time lineup for 15 years — seemed friendly. And a producer and writer on “Bull,” Glenn Gordon Caron, told Ms. Dushku she would be more than a love interest.
Then came a series of comments that made Ms. Dushku uncomfortable. In front of the cast and crew, Mr. Weatherly remarked on her appearance, and made a rape joke and a comment about a threesome. Shortly after Ms. Dushku confronted the star about his behavior, she was written off the show. She believed her time on “Bull” came to a sudden end as a result of retaliation.
After she went through mediation with CBS, the company agreed to a confidential settlement that would pay her $9.5 million, roughly the equivalent of what Ms. Dushku would have earned if she had stayed on as a cast member for four seasons.
These stories are piling on top of one another, creating a very bad look for CBS. So rather than waiting a few more weeks, the board dropped the hammer on Moonves today. It makes them look less passive, at least that’s my guess as to how this happened. On Twitter, Ronan Farrow took a victory lap:
Les Moonves will be fired—forfeiting more than $100 million. Read my original stories that prompted his exit, with allegations of assault & harassment from a dozen very brave women & accounts of a culture of impunity across CBS: https://t.co/y3F8wvtZCH and https://t.co/uMVALgQ1OB
— Ronan Farrow (@RonanFarrow) December 17, 2018
Finally, here’s CBS Evening News own report on the Moonves decision.