Les Moonves Leaves CBS To Spend More Time With His Rape Lawyers
The now finally former CBS CEO Les Moonves is a crawling smear of slime. He's like the dog poop that Wadsworth the butler steps in at the start of Clue. But we've known that since Ronan Farrow's expose in the August 6 issue of The New Yorker, which revealed how Moonves assaulted women, including the actress Illeana Douglas, and sabotaged their careers. But that was just six women and apparently you need a whole dozen to make an omelette or hold a powerful man accountable for anything.
Moonves at the time released a self-serving statement in which he insisted he was an otherwise standup guy who maybe once or twice made women feel "uncomfortable" (what those of us not in the industry might call attempted rape). Then ... nothing really happened. CBS supposedly took this all "very seriously" but Moonves still had his gross fingers in the pie.
Farrow released a followup in September 9's New Yorker that detailed more repulsive behavior from Moonves, such as the flat-out rape of an employee who's now in her early 80s. The victim filed a complaint last year with the Los Angeles Police Department but she was told the statute of limitations on the alleged crimes had passed. Moonves abused his power to repeatedly abuse women over the course of his career. I needed an airsick bag handy while reading the article.
Moonves stepped down Sunday but not without crapping on the rug on his way out.
In a statement, Moonves acknowledged three of the encounters, but said that they were consensual: "The appalling accusations in this article are untrue. What is true is that I had consensual relations with three of the women some 25 years ago before I came to CBS. And I have never used my position to hinder the advancement or careers of women. In my 40 years of work, I have never before heard of such disturbing accusations. I can only surmise they are surfacing now for the first time, decades later, as part of a concerted effort by others to destroy my name, my reputation, and my career. Anyone who knows me knows that the person described in this article is not me." Moonves declined to specify which three encounters he considered consensual.
"Three of the rapes were totally consensual." That's his defense? Everything these women describe is so traumatic and detailed in specific horrors. Only someone perverse enough to greenlight "The Odd Couple" remake could think they were mutually beneficial sex acts. And what kind of megalomaniac is Moonves to believe we'd buy that there's some grand conspiracy against him? Someone actually tried to blackmail David Letterman. Women are publicly accusing Moonves without any hope of financial reward.
Moonves is also lying through his gross teeth when he claims he's never "used his position" to damage a woman's career. Moonves was reportedly "obsessed" with ending Janet Jackson's career after her "wardrobe malfunction" at the 2004 Super Bowl. In case you missed one of the few times the halftime show was interesting, Justin Timberlake was performing with Jackson and ripped off a part of her costume at a climactic moment, exposing her bare breast for a whole half a second. Prudes acted like this had happened during church service instead of concussion-generating gladiatorial combat. Prudes also like to blame women for the actions of men. So, Jackson took the fall and her career suffered while Timberlake's minstrel show thrived.
Why was Timberlake forgiven but Moonves "fixated" on destroying the woman who led the "Rhythm Nation"? Allegedly, a tearful Timberlake got on his knees and Janet didn't. Perhaps Jackson not literally doing so also angered Moonves. Like Nietzsche, I tend to distrust those in whom the urge to punish is strong. It makes a lot of sense that someone seemingly dedicated to making a woman suffer for perceived sexual misconduct would secretly (or not so secretly) be a slimeball himself.
There was brief concern that Moonves would leave CBS with a $100 million severance package, retiring in "disgrace" to his private fantasy island of shame. Some dudes online tried to soft pedal this. "What can you do?" they asked cluelessly, as if unaware that whistleblowers often risked losing everything because they dared reveal that their employers were deliberately poisoning people. If the contracts for powerful men are written so it's apparently no big thang if they abuse women, then that's a feature not a bug. Networks could probably find lawyers to write contracts that would actually deter sexual misconduct -- a rather benign description of what Moonves is alleged to have done.
Fortunately, Moonves might not see a penny of his exit compensation, pending an independent investigation that I frankly hopes leads to criminal charges and Illeana Douglas skating over the icy grave of his professional reputation.
Moonves claims these allegations are "not consistent with who I am." Powerful men love to say this when the curtain's been pulled away from their corruption. What matters is the image they project. Notice that Moonves doesn't directly call the allegations false, just that they run counter to his carefully cultivated image. He might try to clean up that image with some blood money: CBS is donating $20 million from whatever potential severance Moonves might receive to "organizations that support the #MeToo movement and workplace equality for women." Wow! That's almost what a single "Big Bang Theory" star makes a year. Don't break the bank, guys. Also, there are individual victims here. Douglas and Jackson should sue Moonves into oblivion. Their lost career opportunities likely exceed the paltry in comparison $20 million.
CBS also needs a complete top-down examination of how Moonves was able to run riot for so long. After Farrow's first article, CBS claimed that there'd been no charges against Moonves in his almost quarter-century career at the network. That's not a defense. That's revealing of a workplace culture that enables sexual predators.
When Bill Cosby was publicly exposed as a serial rapist, people wondered how he got away with it for so long. The sad truth is that it's possible he wasn't alone, just one of many men in the business who felt free to abuse women.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He's on the board of the Portland Playhouse theater and writes for the immersive theater Cafe Nordo in Seattle.