NEW YORK, NY — The CBS board of directors announced Monday it will look for outside counsel to investigate chairman-CEO Leslie “Les” Moonves, who was accused last week of sexual harassment by several women. The board, which met via teleconference, took no other action at the meeting, the company said in a statement.
The meeting was previously scheduled, the news outlets reported, because CBS had planned to hold its yearly shareholders meeting.
The New Yorker reported last week that six women who dealt with Moonves professionally between the 80s and 2000s accused him of sexual harassment. Four said he forcibly touched or kissed them during business meetings and and two said he physically intimidated them or threatened to ruin their careers.
In one incident, Illeana Douglas said she met with Moonves in his office to discuss a script in 1997. At one point, she said he held her down on his couch and “violently” kissed her. She called the physicality “horrendous.”
Moonves, 68, acknowledged kissing Douglas but denied sexual assault. He also acknowledged in a statement that there were times — decades ago — when he might have made some women feel uncomfortable by making advances.
“Those were mistakes, and I regret them immensely,” he said, but noted he didn’t misuse his position to harm or derail anyone’s career.
Julie Chen, Moonves’s wife and TV personality, addressed the allegations briefly Monday on the CBS show “The Talk.”
“Some of you may be aware of what’s been going on in my life for the past few days,” Chen said. “I issued the one and only statement I will ever make on this topic on Twitter. I will stand by that statement today, tomorrow, forever.”
The board said in a statement to media outlets just before the story broke that it would fully investigate the claims and “take appropriate actions.”
USA Today tweeted Monday that Moonves had been suspended but later deleted the tweet and issued a correction.
“A previous alert incorrectly stated that the CBS board suspended CEO Les Moonves. That decision has not yet been made,” the outlet wrote.
CBS Corp.’s stock fell 6 percent last week when the accusations broke. The drop represented the company’s worst one-day loss in nearly seven years, The Associated Press reported.
Moonves, a powerful figure in TV for decades, is credited with improving the networks bottom years-long run of low ratings. He joins a long list of powerful men to become embroiled in sexual misconduct allegations as part of a nationwide #MeToo movement that began with harvey Weinstein in October.
CBS in November fired veteran news host Charlie Rose after women accused him of groping them, making inappropriate phone calls to them and even walking naked in front of them.
That same month, NBC’s “Today” show host Matt Lauer was fired over allegations of sexual misconduct too.
Photo credit: Drew Angerer/Getty Images
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