CBS is a cesspool of sexual violence and the network has repeatedly failed to keep its employees safe

CBS is a cesspool of sexual violence and the network has repeatedly failed to keep its employees safe

››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS & GRACE BENNETT

CBS has a long history of men engaging in, permitting, and even encouraging sexual misconduct. Media Matters has compiled the reporting detailing the egregious behavior at the network.


Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

CBS has a massive problem with workplace sexual misconduct. Ever since November 2017, when former anchor and network star Charlie Rose faced what would become more than two dozen accusations of sexual harassment and assault, multiple high-profile men have been accused of participating in or enabling decades of pervasive sexual misconduct at the network. The cascade of new allegations, coupled with the prominence of the #MeToo movement, has also shone new light on older accusations against the company and its leaders. Media Matters has compiled the reporting that has taken place in recent years detailing the rampant and unchecked sexual misconduct at CBS:

Les Moonves

July 27: Six women accuse then-CBS head Les Moonves of sexual misconduct. According to a report by The New Yorker’s Ronan Farrow, six women claimed that they were sexually harassed by Leslie Moonves, then-chairman and CEO of CBS Corporation. Four of the women “described forcible touching or kissing during business meetings,” and two said “that Moonves physically intimidated them or threatened to derail their careers.” Farrow also reported, “Thirty current and former employees of CBS told me that such behavior extended from Moonves to important parts of the corporation.” [The New Yorker, 7/27/18; The New York Times, 7/27/18]

September 9: CBS and Moonves begin negotiating his departure amid new misconduct allegations. Farrow reported in The New Yorker that CBS and Moonves were negotiating his departure from the network amid six new accusations of harassment, assault, and retaliation. According to The New Yorker, the women’s reports “include claims that Moonves forced them to perform oral sex on him, that he exposed himself to them without their consent, and that he used physical violence and intimidation against them.” The women also said he retaliated and hurt their careers. In the article, Farrow noted that Moonves’ exit package was reportedly worth nearly $100 million. That same day, CNN reported that Moonves would be leaving CBS and that his severance package would depend on the outcome of the network’s investigation into his conduct. [The New Yorker, 9/9/18; CNN, 9/9/18]

September 12: CBS’ board of directors forces Moonves out over his attempt to buy a woman’s silence and conceal it from CBS. The New York Times reported that Moonves attempted to bury an accusation against him by offering one of the women he allegedly abused an acting job on a CBS show. According to the Times, “In the end, it was the evidence that Mr. Moonves had misled his board — even more than the allegations of abuse from multiple women — that doomed him.” [The New York Times, 9/12/18]

November 28: A follow-up report details the story of Bobbie Phillips, the woman who says Moonves assaulted her and tried to buy her silence with a job offer. Another Times report detailed Bobbie Phillips’ account of her assault by Moonves and how he worked with a talent manager, Marv Dauer, to try to cover it up by offering her a job at CBS. According to the article, the job offer was a direct response to the Times contacting Dauer for comment on an allegation against Moonves. [The New York Times, 11/28/18]

December 4: Report by outside law firms confirms Moonves “engaged in multiple acts of serious nonconsensual sexual misconduct” and destroyed evidence to protect himself. In December, The New York Times revealed that outside law firms hired by CBS found that Moonves had “engaged in multiple acts of serious nonconsensual sexual misconduct in and outside of the workplace, both before and after he came to CBS in 1995.” According to the Times, “The lawyers wrote that they had interviewed 11 of the 17 women who they knew had accused Mr. Moonves of misconduct or harassment and found their accounts to be credible. Most of the alleged incidents occurred many years ago.”

The report unveiled previously unknown instances of abuse and also found that Moonves had repeatedly lied to investigators and destroyed evidence of his actions. In addition to failing to disclose that he had attempted to secure Bobbie Phillips’ silence by giving her a job, “investigators also discovered that Mr. Moonves had deleted many of his hundreds of texts with Mr. Dauer, and handed over his son’s iPad instead of his own.” The firms, which were hired in part to conduct an investigation into whether Moonves violated his employment agreement, determined that “based on the facts developed to date, we believe that the board would have multiple bases upon which to conclude that the company was entitled to terminate Moonves for cause.” [The New York Times, 12/4/18]

December 4: Outside report finds that several CBS executives and board members knew of Moonves’ misconduct. The New York Times also reported that according to the outside investigators’ findings, “many of the company’s employees, including high-ranking executives and even members of its board, were aware of the former chief executive Leslie Moonves’s alleged sexual misconduct and subsequent efforts to conceal it,” and yet no action was taken against Moonves. The Times noted that “one of the most egregious violations appears to have been committed by Arnold Kopelson, a longstanding board member and a friend of Dr. Anne Peters, who has accused Mr. Moonves of misconduct.” According to Peters, after she told Kopelson in 2007 that Moonves grabbed her, grinded against her, and masturbated in front of her, Kopelson “responded that it was a trivial incident, adding that ‘we all did that.’” [The New York Times, 12/4/18]

December 12: Actor Cybill Shepherd says Moonves canceled her show after she refused his advances. Actor Cybill Shepherd said that CBS canceled her show Cybill in 1998 after she rebuffed a sexual advance from Moonves. According to Shepherd, Moonves asked to take her home one night at dinner, and after she declined the offer, “she began receiving notes about what her character on ‘Cybill’ could and could not do or say. Shepherd said she was also not allowed into the editing room to work on the final two episodes of the series.” [SiriusXM, The Michelle Collins Show, 12/12/18; NBC News, 12/13/18]

December 18: CBS announces Moonves will not receive a payout. The New York Times reported that after reviewing the report compiled by outside investigators, the CBS board determined that Moonves will not receive a $120 million severance package. [The New York Times, 12/17/18]

Charlie Rose

November 2017: CBS fires Charlie Rose shortly after eight women accuse him of sexual misconduct. According to a report by The Washington Post, eight women said CBS This Morning co-host and 60 Minutes correspondent Charlie Rose “made unwanted sexual advances toward them, including lewd phone calls, walking around naked in their presence, or groping their breasts, buttocks or genital areas” between the 1990s and 2011. CBS opened an investigation into the allegations of sexual harassment and sexual assault and suspended Rose as a result of the Post’s reporting. The next day, CBS fired Rose and PBS canceled his eponymous show. [The Washington Post, 11/20/17, 11/21/17]

May 3: Wash. Post reports that 27 additional women said Rose harassed them. In May, The Washington Post reported on 27 new reports of sexual misconduct against Rose in addition to the initial eight. Fourteen of the new accusers worked with Rose at CBS, and the Post reported that managers at the network were repeatedly alerted to the accusations between 1986 and 2017. [The Washington Post, 5/3/18]

May 4: Three women file lawsuit against Rose and CBS. The New York Times reported that three women were suing Rose and CBS, “alleging that they were sexually harassed by the former anchorman while working for him and that the network did nothing to stop it.” The suit alleged that CBS This Morning executive producer Ryan Kadro knew about some of Rose’s actions but took no action. [The New York Times, 5/4/18]

December 11: Survivors settle their lawsuit against CBS. Business Insider reported that the three women had settled the lawsuit against CBS under confidential terms, but that “the suit against Rose remains open.” [Business Insider, 12/11/18]

December 12: CBS This Morning executive producer set to leave the network. Vulture reported that Kadro, who allegedly knew of Rose’s sexual harassment and ignored it, is reportedly in talks to leave CBS. [Vulture, 12/12/18]

Jeff Fager

December 5, 2017: 60 Minutes executive producer Jeff Fager took over writing a book on the show’s history after objecting to the author’s focus on the show’s treatment of women. The New York Times reported that in 2015, 60 Minutes producer Jeff Fager “took over the writing of a book on the CBS show’s 50-year history after objecting to the direction of the original author’s research.” According to the Times, “Specifically, Mr. Fager expressed concern that Mr. Zoglin had asked his interview subjects about the treatment of women in the ‘60 Minutes’ workplace.” [The New York Times, 12/5/17]

July 27: Fager permitted, protected, and participated in sexual harassment at CBS. In the same July 2018 article that first made public accusations against Moonves, Ronan Farrow also reported on accusations that Fager, the former chairman of CBS News and then-executive producer of 60 Minutes, had allowed harassment to flourish at 60 Minutes, protected men accused of sexual misconduct, and had himself sexually harassed employees. According to the article, 19 current and former employees spoke to Farrow for the report about the “very toxic culture toward women” that Fager permitted. In addition, “The New Yorker reviewed three six-figure settlements with '60 Minutes' employees who have filed complaints of sexual harassment or discrimination,” and reported the existence of several nondisclosure agreements related to sexual misconduct. [The New Yorker, 7/27/18; The New York Times, 7/27/18]

September 12: CBS fires Fager after he threatened colleague for investigating him. The New York Times reported that CBS fired Fager after he threatened a colleague looking into abuse allegations against him. Fager sent a text message to CBS reporter Jericka Duncan, saying, “There are people who lost their jobs trying to harm me, and if you pass on these damaging claims without your own reporting to back them up that will become a serious problem.” [The New York Times, 9/12/18]

December 6: CBS’ internal investigation confirms Fager’s misconduct and reveals extensive violations by his predecessor, Don Hewitt. The New York Times reported on the draft of a report compiled by outside counsel hired by CBS to investigate the workplace culture. According to the Times, the report stated that “the physical, administrative and cultural separation between ‘60 Minutes’ and the rest of CBS News permitted misconduct by some ‘60 Minutes’ employees,” adding that Fager “‘engaged in certain acts of sexual misconduct’ with colleagues and failed to stop misbehavior by others.” The investigation also found that misconduct was even worse under previous 60 Minutes executive producer and founder Don Hewitt and that CBS reached a settlement in the 1990s with a woman who had been assaulted by Hewitt “over a period of years.” According to the report, “The settlement has exceeded $5 million in total, plus annual payments of $75,000 for the rest of her life.” [The New York Times, 12/6/18]

Brad Kern

December 14, 2017: CBS opens and closes two investigations into showrunner Brad Kern. In December 2017, Variety reported that CBS had opened two separate HR investigations into Brad Kern, executive producer and showrunner of NCIS: New Orleans, following “allegations of sexual harassment, discrimination against women — particularly working mothers — and racially charged comments.” CBS reportedly “concluded that there was no evidence of retaliation, harassment, discrimination or gender bias but told staffers that ‘appropriate’ action had been taken.” But employees told Variety that the inappropriate behavior continued after the investigations ended. [Variety, 12/14/17]

May 17: Kern was demoted, but retains position as consulting producer on NCIS: New Orleans. In May, Deadline reported that Kern was “exiting his role as executive producer/showrunner of NCIS: New Orleans. He will serve as consultant on the series going forward.” According to Deadline, the move was a result of the investigations into Kern’s misconduct, but no official complaints had been filed against him since those investigations took place. [Deadline, 5/17/18]

June 15: CBS retains outside counsel to investigate allegations against Kern, while signing him to a new contract. In June, The Hollywood Reporter reported that CBS was hiring outside counsel to look into the accusations against Kern, while simultaneously signing “a new two-year overall deal” with him. The investigation was reportedly prompted by the #MeToo movement. [The Hollywood Reporter, 6/15/18]

October 2: CBS fires Kern after completion of third investigation. CBS fired Kern upon completion of the third investigation into “allegations of harassment, unprofessional conduct and vindictive behavior” by him, potentially as far back as 1998. [The Hollywood Reporter, 10/2/18]

Other accusations

April 2, 2015: Former reporter Kenneth Lombardi sues CBS for sexual harassment and retaliation. In 2015, former CBS reporter Kenneth Lombardi sued CBS, alleging that two of his former bosses had sexually assaulted him and that the network retaliated after he reported the assaults. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Lombardi “claims that CBS senior producer Duane Tollison kissed his neck and grabbed his crotch during a 2013 CBS News holiday party.” He also said that he asked CBS Evening News director Albert "Chip" Colley for professional advice but that at the meet-up, Colley “got drunk ... and hit on him instead of giving him a professional review of his celebrity interviews.” Additionally, according to Lombardi, Colley would appear in his office “exhibiting predatory behavior.” The lawsuit also alleged that Lombardi was retaliated against when he reported these incidents. The lawsuit was transferred to the arbitration process in June of that year. CBS told The New Yorker in 2018 that the matter has been resolved. [The Hollywood Reporter, 4/2/15; Lombardi v. CBS Broadcasting Inc. et al, 1/9/17; The New Yorker, 8/6/18]

October 26, 2017: CBS director Rick Najera resigns following investigation of “inappropriate comments to performers.” In October 2017, Variety reported that Rick Najera, director of CBS’ annual Diversity Sketch Comedy Showcase, had resigned “following an investigation into allegations that he made inappropriate comments to performers.” CBS provided a statement to Variety saying it had previously investigated Najera and taken disciplinary action, but that new information had spurred a second investigation and Najera’s resignation. [Variety, 10/26/17]

November 26, 2017: Former CBS associate director Erin Gee alleges rampant discrimination at CBS, says boss Robert Klug suggested she have sex with a coworker to “break the ice.” Former CBS associate director Erin Gee filed a lawsuit “alleging rampant sex discrimination at the network.” One of the most egregious examples she cited was an incident in which her boss at CBS advised that “she should ‘have sex’ with [the] video editor who had been difficult to work with to ‘break the ice.’” After Gee filed a complaint, she was demoted. [The New York Post, 11/26/17]

December 13: CBS paid actor Eliza Dushku a settlement after sexual harassment from co-star Michael Weatherly. On December 13, The New York Times revealed that actor Eliza Dushku had received a $9.5 million settlement from CBS. Dushku reported that Michael Weatherly, star of CBS prime-time drama Bull, sexually harassed her on set and that she was let go after confronting him. The $9.5 million CBS paid Dushku is equivalent to the salary she was expected to earn had the network not written her off of the show. [The New York Times, 12/13/18]

Posted In
Gender, Sexual Harassment & Sexual Assault
Network/Outlet
CBS
Person
Charlie Rose, Les Moonves
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