The New Yorker has published a report by Ronan Farrow detailing allegations of sexual misconduct against CBS chief executive Les Moonves, after the TV network had earlier said it investigating Moonves over the allegations.
Six women accuse Moonves of harassment and intimidation, and dozens more describe abuse at CBS, the New Yorker reported.
Farrow’s report says four women described “forcible touching or kissing during business meetings, in what they said appeared to be a practiced routine” and also that 30 current and former CBS employees said such behaviour extended from Moonves across the corporation, including at CBS News and 60 Minutes.
“I recognize that there were times decades ago when I may have made some women uncomfortable by making advances,” Moonves said in a statement.
“Those were mistakes, and I regret them immensely,” Moonves said. “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.”
CBS said in a statement it would investigate the claims.
“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,” the CBS statement said.
One of the women in the story was identified as actress Illeana Douglas. Douglas’ publicist Danny Deraney confirmed her comments in the story.
“Real change will occur when victims of sexual assaults are not stigmatized as whistle blowers, or people with some kind of agenda for coming forward,” Douglas said in a statement.
“Speaking for myself, real change will occur when I can walk through the front doors of CBS and resume the creative and working relationship that was so tragically cut short in 1997,” she added.
According to the New Yorker, 30 current and former CBS employees described harassment, gender discrimination, or retaliation for refusing sexual advances at the company.
Shares in CBS fell 6% in midday trading. The statement added: “We will continue to focus on creating value for our shareowners.”
Before joining CBS, Moonves was president and chief executive of Warner Bros television, giving the green light to both Friends and ER. He joined CBS in 1995, working his way up to president in 1998 and chairman in 2003, the year it became America’s most watched network. He helped turn The Big Bang Theory and The Good Wife into major ratings successes.
In 2013 it was reported that Moonves earned more than $65m, making him one of TV’s highest paid executives. In the same year he was inducted into the television hall of fame. He went on to launch CBS All Access, home to Star Trek Discovery and The Good Fight.
Since 2004, Moonves has been married to ex-news anchor and Big Brother presenter Julie Chen.
Farrow is the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of a New Yorker report that last year turned the media spotlight on Harvey Weinstein and contributed to the growth of the #MeToo movement. The now disgraced Hollywood producer has pleaded not guilty to sexual assault charges and is now free on bail.