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Draft Report Indicates Moonves Misled Investigators, Destroyed Evidence


The former head of CBS, Les Moonves, stepped down from his post in September after multiple women accused him of sexual harassment and assault. Now he is accused of trying to cover it up. A report from lawyers hired by CBS says Moonves destroyed evidence and misled investigators. He was supposed to walk away from the company with $120 million in severance pay, but if the allegations are true, CBS could take that money away. We're joined now by NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik, who's been covering this. Thanks for being here, David.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: Good morning, Rachel.

MARTIN: So destroying evidence, misleading investigators - those are big claims. What more do we know?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, it's not good. The CBS board hired two major law firms to look at this. This is a draft report obtained by The New York Times. But they say that he, you know, this big media magnate, the last of the great Hollywood chieftains in some ways, you know, behaved like somebody scurrying to protect themselves from indictment, that he lied to the investigators for the law firms, that he deleted texts - hundreds of texts he exchanged with the manager of a woman over the course of, say, the last year who had alleged that Les Moonves had tried to essentially coerce a sexual act from her two decades ago when she was an aspiring actress. And you know, to give you some sense of the scope that we're talking about, he not only did those things but, in a small way, he was asked to hand over digital devices that the investigators could look at. Instead of handing over his own iPad, he handed over that of his son.

MARTIN: So there are now new allegations against Les Moonves, right? What can you tell us about what has recently come out?

FOLKENFLIK: Right. Well, first, we should say they reached 11 of the 17 women who have made allegations that he sexually harassed them or worse. And they say they found them credible, that they weren't able to prove it. But they found out some other things. They allege in this draft report that at least four times he secured oral sex from CBS employees - that is, his subordinates - in ways that they called transactional. And this is a quote. They say, "there were circumstances that sound transactional and improper to the extent there was no hint of any relationship, romance or reciprocity, especially given what we know about his history of, more or less, forced oral sex with women with whom he has had no ongoing relationship."

And I want to insert here that his lawyer maintains that all of the sexual contact he has had with CBS employees or otherwise has been consensual. But furthermore, the investigators said there is an employee who was effectively on-call - a subordinate who was essentially there so that he could have oral sex on demand. And this is, again, something where his lawyer says all sexual contact was consensual. He's not denying that sexual contact occurred.

In addition, lawyers recounted an instance in which a man about to take a position on the CBS board of directors, Arnold Kopelson, a longtime film producer and lawyer, had been told by a friend of his that she had been severely sexually harrassed by Moonves - she's a doctor - during what was to be a medical appointment some years earlier. Kopelson took the position on the board and then didn't inform the board of directors about it. He died earlier this fall.

MARTIN: Wow. What does all this mean for Moonves' future? I mean, just in the short term, is he going to keep his severance package?

FOLKENFLIK: It seems very unlikely that the board would be able to grant him those $120 million as part of his severance. But it's also reflective of a culture where there seemed to be no accountability, where governance itself seems to have failed at CBS, not just on the part of Moonves.

MARTIN: All right. NPR's David Folkenflik on this story this morning. Thanks so much, David. We appreciate it.

FOLKENFLIK: You bet. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

David Folkenflik was described by Geraldo Rivera of Fox News as "a really weak-kneed, backstabbing, sweaty-palmed reporter." Others have been kinder. The Columbia Journalism Review, for example, once gave him a "laurel" for reporting that immediately led the U.S. military to institute safety measures for journalists in Baghdad.