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Les Moonves Might Not Get His CBS Severance After Sexual Misconduct Investigation


An update now to news that broke in September - CBS ousting its longtime head, Les Moonves, after women - multiple women - came forward to accuse him of sexual harassment and assault. CBS then hired a legal team to investigate whether Moonves' actions violated the terms of his employment. Its conclusion - that the company had plenty of reasons to fire Moonves for cause and reasons to deny him a $120 million severance package. We know that because the report was leaked to The New York Times.

Rachel Abrams wrote about it and joins us now. Hi there.


KELLY: And I want to inject a warning that some details we are about to discuss may be disturbing. OK. The report is stuffed with new details about Moonves' alleged conduct. What are the most egregious?

ABRAMS: Well, we know a lot more about what kind of behavior he exhibited at work. One of the most salacious details is that there was a woman who worked at CBS who was described by some staffers as being on call to perform oral sex for Mr. Moonves. The lawyers make it clear that they were not able to interview the woman, but, nevertheless, they included that they had heard multiple reports about this.

KELLY: Yeah, yeah, that's just - I mean - OK. Go on. What else are we learning here?

ABRAMS: The most damning accusations as it relates to whether or not he's going to get $120 million in severance is that he lied to investigators and that he tried to then cover up some of the actions that he took that he knew would get him in trouble. Most specifically, there was a woman who had accused Mr. Moonves of sexually assaulting her back in 1995. And in December, Mr. Moonves received a call from the woman's manager claiming that she was making noises about going public. And this manager, Marv Dauer, suggested that Mr. Moonves try to keep her quiet by offering her acting work, which Mr. Moonves did over the following months.

KELLY: Now, I need to note that Moonves, through his lawyer, insists that he did cooperate extensively and fully with investigators - also denies having any nonconsensual sexual relationship. Is there anything in the report that would contradict that?

ABRAMS: The lawyer said that they investigated 11 of the 17 women who they knew of who had made accusations against Mr. Moonves. And they make a point multiple times in their report to say that they found the women credible. And by contrast - if I could just read you what they wrote about Mr. Moonves - they said they found him to be evasive and untruthful at times and to have deliberately lied about and minimized the extent of his sexual misconduct. And the lawyers also wrote that Mr. Moonves 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.

KELLY: What is the fallout inside CBS? The board doesn't come out of this looking good, and I gather CBS management also had some knowledge of these allegations.

ABRAMS: One of the most fascinating revelations from the report yesterday was that a former board member, Arnold Kopelson, who passed away in October of this year actually, was aware as far back as 2007 of a sexual assault claim, a woman who claimed that Mr. Moonves had masturbated in front of her and tried to kiss her during a doctor's visit in 1999. And when Mr. Kopelson learned of this, his response was to say, well, we all did that. And there's no evidence that Mr. Kopelson told any board members or took any other action.

KELLY: And what about CBS management and what they knew?

ABRAMS: We know that there were certain people within CBS that were aware of some of these accusations as early as late last year. But, again, it's unclear to us what steps they actually took, if any.

KELLY: Does it surprise you at all that this is coming to light now, more than a year after Harvey Weinstein and the #MeToo movement blowing up, that it took this long to come to light?

ABRAMS: No. I mean, I think that there's a lot we don't know about what happens in corporate America. For every story we read, you know, maybe there's 10 more that we're just never going to know about. So I'm not surprised that we're only learning about this now.

KELLY: Rachel Abrams of The New York Times, thank you.

ABRAMS: Thank you so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.