The CBS board of directors said on Friday that it will investigate allegations of "personal misconduct" against the network's CEO, Leslie Moonves.
The announcement came a few hours before The New Yorker published an article quoting six women who accused Moonves of harassment and intimidation, four of whom spoke on the record. Prior to the article's publication, The Hollywood Reporter posted an article saying The New Yorker's report was coming, leading to the CBS announcement.
The New Yorker article was written by Ronan Farrow, a former NBC News correspondent, who has written a series of articles on high-profile individuals accused of sexual misconduct.
Farrow reported in the article that six women who had professional dealings with Moonves said he sexually harassed them in incidents between the 1980s and the late 2000s. Farrow wrote that four women alleged forcible touching or kissing and two alleged sexual misconduct or harassment.
Actress and writer Illeana Douglas was quoted in the article as saying, “What happened to me was a sexual assault, and then I was fired for not participating.”
Writer Janet Jones alleged in the article that she had to had to shove Moonves off her after he forcibly kissed her at a work meeting, and she was quoted as saying “he has gotten away with it for decades,” and that “it’s just not O.K.”
In a statement to The New Yorker, Moonves said he recognized "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."
But he said he respected the principle "that 'no' means 'no,'" and had never misused his position to harm anyone's career.
Farrow also reported that 19 current and former CBS employees, many of whom are unnamed, alleged that Jeff Fager, the former chairman of CBS News and the current executive producer of “60 Minutes,” allowed harassment in the news division, and that men at CBS news who were accused of sexual misconduct were promoted even as the company paid settlements to women who complained — but Farrow noted that it was unclear if Moonves knew about those allegations.
A spokesperson for CBS said that all allegations of personal misconduct are taken seriously.
"The Independent Directors of CBS have committed to investigating claims that violate the Company’s clear policies in that regard," said the spokesperson, who asked not to be identified. "Upon the conclusion of that investigation, which involves recently reported allegations that go back several decades, the Board will promptly review the findings and take appropriate action.”
A CBS representative for Leslie Moonves declined to comment earlier Friday.
Moonves is one of the most powerful men in Hollywood and is known for his ability to pick hit shows. He was CEO of Warner Bros TV during the 1990s when the studio created two of the biggest shows in TV history, "Friends" and "ER." At CBS, he commissioned hit shows such as "CSI" and "The Big Bang Theory."
Moonves, who is also a former actor, has surrounded himself with women at the top echelons of his company. For years his closest advisors were all women; Nina Tassler, who was chairman of CBS Entertainment; Nancy Tellem, who was CBS Entertainment Group president; Jo Ann Ross, chief advertising officer. Only Ross remains with the company.
He is also one of the highest paid executives in the U.S. Forbes estimates the 68-year-old Moonves is worth $700 million. He earned $69.3 million in 2017, according to Variety.
Moonves is currently married to Julie Chen, host of CBS reality show "Big Brother," who defended him on Twitter after The New Yorker story was published.
"I fully support my husband and stand behind him and his statement," she tweeted.
CBS stock dropped sharply after The Hollywood Reporter published its article and closed down more than 6 percent on the day.
The article comes at a difficult time for CBS and Moonves, who is in the midst of a legal battle against Shari Redstone, CBS’s controlling shareholder through parent company National Amusements.
“The timing of this report comes in the midst of the Company’s very public legal dispute," the CBS spokesperson said. "While that litigation process continues, the CBS management team has the full support of the independent board members. Along with that team, we will continue to focus on creating value for our shareowners.”
A spokesperson for Redstone said she was not involved in the surfacing of allegations against Moonves.
"Ms. Redstone hopes that the investigation of these allegations is thorough, open and transparent," the spokesperson said.