MEDIA

Les Moonves Exits Anti-Sexual Misconduct Commission Amid Misconduct Accusations

A New Yorker piece detailed several sexual harassment allegations against the CBS executive.

Embattled CBS chief Les Moonves has stepped down from the Anita Hill–led commission to address sexual misconduct in the media and entertainment industries after a New Yorker exposé lodged several misconduct accusations against him.

The move came Wednesday, the same day the University of Southern California booted Moonves from its film school’s advisory board and removed his name from a media center.

Deadline, which was first to report Moonves’ departure from the commission, published a letter from Hill announcing the move. 

“We will continue to develop approaches aimed at fostering a culture of respect and human dignity throughout the industry as the best way to eliminate harassment and other abuses of power,” the letter read.

Moonves, the CBS chairman and CEO, was tapped in December to help create and finance the Commission on Eliminating Sexual Harassment and Advancing Equality in the Workplace following revelations of widespread sexual harassment and abuse in Hollywood and the media industry.

The group is headed up by Hill, who in 1991 alleged sexual harassment in the workplace by Clarence Thomas, then waiting to be confirmed as a Supreme Court justice. It was spearheaded by prominent women executives including Kathleen Kennedy, president of Lucasfilm, and Maria Eitel, co-chair of the Nike Foundation.

Its stated mission is to “lead the entertainment industry toward alignment in achieving safer, fairer, more equitable and accountable workplaces — particularly for women and marginalized people.” Executives from the biggest media and entertainment companies, from Disney to Netflix, are involved.

Although Moonves has not announced any plans to leave CBS, his place on the commission became awkward in the wake of the claims against him.

Journalist Ronan Farrow, whose work helped launch the Me Too movement last year, detailed accusations by six women in his story published Friday. Several of the women said Moonves attempted to kiss or touch them inappropriately during business meetings and that their careers suffered following the alleged incidents.

Actress Illeana Douglas said the executive began “violently kissing” her after she rejected his advances during one such meeting in 1997. 

Last fall, Moonves spoke favorably about the Me Too movement after a litant of sexual abuse and harassment accusations surfaced against now-former Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. The CBS executive told Variety he viewed the new awareness as a “watershed moment” for the industry and was affecting policy at his own network. 

In response to the New Yorker piece, Moonves in a statement acknowledged that “there were times decades ago when I may have made some women uncomfortable by making advances.” 

“Those were mistakes, and I regret them immensely,” he said, while disputig the claims that he stymied any woman’s career for rejecting him. He said he “always understood and respected” that “no means no.” 

CBS has launched a third-party investigation into the accusations.

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