Ronan Farrow has struck again.
In a new investigative reporting piece, the journalist who revealed that New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman was a sexual abuser and who also added to the documentation of Harvey Weinstein’s horrific workplace conduct, revealed in his latest investigative article in The New Yorker that clear sexual harassment was alleged by six women in the entertainment business against Les Moonves, and that, as usual, his fish, CBS, and especially CBS News, had rotted from the head down.
Moonves is as long-established, respected and powerful a figure as there is in the media. He became the president of CBS Entertainment in 1995 and the chief executive of the company in 2006, and is paid $69.3 million a year.
You can close your eyes now and imagine everything that follows from here—it will just be a summer re-run of the Fox News debacle that eventually toppled Roger Ailes. We will need a pool to determine who will play the role of Bill O’Reilly, unless Charlie Rose qualifies. The account of actress Illeana Douglas—you know her face if not her name: she played the woman raped and mutilated by Robert DeNiro in “Cape Fear” and appears in several other Martin Scorcese films–is particularly disturbing, if familiar-sounding.
She describes Moonves grabbing her and violently kissing her during a business meeting in 1997. “What it feels like to have someone hold you down—you can’t breathe, you can’t move,” she said. “The physicality of it was horrendous.” She made a joke and fled, she says, and soon after the episode Moonves fired Douglas from the CBS sitcom she had been cast in and told her that she would “never work at this network again.”
When Douglas told Scorsese—she had a romantic relationship with the director, but no casting couch was involved in that, I’m sure <cough!>— about the incident and said that she wanted to sue Moonves, the director “urged her to be cautious about taking legal action against such a powerful person” but did refer her to his lawyer. The network offered her a $125,oooo settlement as well as $250,000 to appear in a new miniseries. After all of that was completed, Douglas indeed never worked for CBS gain, and says she believes her response to the CEO’s harassment “derailed any future career I would have had at CBS.”
Playing the role of Greta Van Susteren in this leg of the Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck—you will recall that Greta was certain that allegations against Ailes were false because he never hit on her <cough!>—is Julie Chen, Mrs. Moonves and completely coincidentally <cough!>I’m sure, the long-time host of the hit CBS reality show “Big Brother,” who told the press,
“I have known my husband, Leslie Moonves, since the late ’90s, and I have been married to him for almost 14 years. Leslie is a good man and a loving father, devoted husband and inspiring corporate leader. He has always been a kind, decent and moral human being. I fully support my husband and stand behind him and his statement.”
That familiar-sounding statement was this…
“I recognize 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 I always understood and respected — and abided by the principle — that ‘no’ means ‘no,’ and I have never misused my position to harm or hinder anyone’s career.”
Isn’t that amazing? As long have we had sexual harassment laws in this country, this major media company CEO appears to have no idea what they are about. I’ve been training companies since the early 90’s. How can Moonves think insisting that he hasn’t raped anyone is a defense against sexual harassment allegations.? If he made women uncomfortable, that’s a hostile work environment. If there was an unspoken threat to harm the career of women who didn’t say “yes,” that’s still quid pro quo harassment.
I hope Chen is cramming for her next role, after the six women becomes ten, then twenty or more, because this is what will happen. We have seen this show before. Then Chen will be playing Maryl Streep, Hillary Clinton, Camille Cosby, or Captain Renaud in “Casablanca,” claiming that she is shocked–shocked!—to learn that good and loving Les behaved this way, because she didn’t know.
She knows, and she knew.
Here is what we should know…
- As Harvey Weinstein recently intimated in an interview, he was simply doing what “everybody did” in his business. Not literally everybody, but enough that the casting couch and routine sexual harassment and abuse can be fairly called a feature, not a bug, of the traditionally corrupt and and ethics free culture of show business.
- All of the entertainment companies are not equally infected, but if some have managed, by luck and fortuitous leadership, to avoid the CBS/NBC/NPR/Fox News/Weinstein Company culture of routine sexual harassment, abuse and extortion, they are exceptions to the rule.
- The faux fury and high dudgeon that the media industry and Hollywood has applied to Donald Trump’s misogyny sets new highs in cynical hypocrisy.
I’ve got to do something about this cough….