Allegations of sexual harassment have been made againt the chief executive of US broadcaster CBS, Les Moonves, who is regarded as one of the most powerful people in the media business.
The TV chief is facing an investigation after a report published Friday in The New Yorker stated that six women had made complaints about him spanning decades.
The CBS board said the matter would be “taken seriously” and that it would promptly review the findings of the investigation, to be carried out by a law firm, and then “take appropriate action”. The company’s shares fell by 6 per cent on the back of the development regarding Mr Moonves.
The article, written by investigative journalist Ronan Farrow, describes sexual harassment alleged by six women in the entertainment business against Mr Moonves. It links the accusations to a broader culture of sexual harassment at CBS, with a special focus on CBS News.
Four women spoke to Farrow on the record, including film and television actress Illeana Douglas, who described a meeting with Mr Moonves in 1997 during which, she said, he was "violently kissing" her while holding her down.
“The physicality of it was horrendous,” she said.
Mr Moonves (68) began his career as an actor before recasting himself as a Hollywood producer and, later, as a network executive. Under his watch, CBS went from last place in the ratings to the most-watched television network, with hits like The Big Bang Theory and Survivor.
He became president of CBS Entertainment in 1995 and chief executive of the company in 2006 and draws an annual pay package of $69.3 million. His role as company head has been in jeopardy because of his part in a continuing legal battle against CBS' parent company, National Amusements.
In addition to Ms Douglas, the women who made on-the-record accusations were writer Janet Jones and producers Christine Peters and Julie Kirgo. All the women said Mr Moonves had insisted on sexual favors and retaliated against them when they turned him down. The earliest allegations in the article date to the mid-1980s, and the most recent to 2006.
In a statement that CBS had shared with The New Yorker, Mr Moonves said: “I recognise 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.”
CBS, in a separate statement, said it “is very mindful of all workplace issues and takes each report of misconduct very seriously.”
It added: “We do not believe, however, that the picture of our company created in The New Yorker represents a larger organisation that does its best to treat its tens of thousands of employees with dignity and respect.”
Mr Moonves is married to Julie Chen, who has hosted several CBS shows.
“I fully support my husband and stand behind him and his statement,” she said on Twitter.
Mr Moonves is separately embroiled in a legal dispute with Shari Redstone, head of National Amusements. He and the CBS board have sued Ms Redstone in an attempt to prevent the parent company from trying to merge the network with Viacom, which is also in the corporate family. The lawsuit will play out in court in October. - New York Times