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CBS Launches Investigation Into Allegations Of Sexual Misconduct


CBS is facing claims that its employees engaged in personal misconduct. CEO Les Moonves is said to be involved in the allegations. We're expecting The New Yorker magazine to publish its report on these claims this evening. Earlier today, CBS issued a statement saying its board of directors is, quote, "committed to investigating claims that violate the company's clear policies in that regard." NPR TV critic Eric Deggans joins us here with more. Hey there, Eric.


CORNISH: So CBS releases this statement before we even know what the details of the allegations are. What happened?

DEGGANS: Well, The Hollywood Reporter actually revealed earlier today that journalist Ronan Farrow was about to publish a story revealing allegations of personal misconduct at CBS, including allegations of sexual misconduct against its CEO, Les Moonves. Now, not long after that news broke, CBS's board of directors put out their statement. They expressed support for CBS's management, but they also said they plan to investigate any claims that violated their policies. And now a lot of people in media are waiting around to see what Farrow reports and how it affects CBS.

CORNISH: Walk us through what else is known at least to this point about the New Yorker story.

DEGGANS: Right. Well, again, The Hollywood Reporter story says the allegations involving Moonves involve instances of unwanted kissing and touching that happened over 20 years ago along with numerous claims that happened more recently. Farrow reportedly spent months investigating the environment at CBS, which led to rumors about what he was working on and what he might have uncovered.

CORNISH: If this story does involve, let's say, the broader culture at CBS, have there been any indications that the company has had problems with misconduct or harassment before this?

DEGGANS: Well, CBS did see the showrunner for its drama "NCIS: New Orleans" Brad Kern step down earlier this year after news broke that he was the subject of two human resources investigations by CBS TV Studios. But he did sign a new deal with the studio. And two people who show - who served as showrunners for the reboot show "Star Trek: Discovery" which airs on CBS's streaming service All Access were also fired earlier this year amid complaints of abuse from some staffers, so that might raise some questions about how vigilant the network's been about the environment on its shows and what they've really done to respond to allegations of abuse from staffers.

CORNISH: In the meantime, can you tell us a little bit more about Les Moonves? What do we need to know?

DEGGANS: Well, Les Moonves is 68, and he's one of the most powerful executives in television. I mean, he's credited with turning around CBS from a network that was thought to be a province for older viewers to a top contender for viewership and revenue. He's always been closely involved with whatever the network does, from paying close attention to who gets cast on "Survivor" to of course watching and approving the new shows that they bring every year. He's worked for CBS since 1995 and has become synonymous with its success. And he's also married to Julie Chen, who co-hosts the CBS daytime show "The Talk" and also hosts the primetime reality show "Big Brother."

CORNISH: This controversy, Eric, comes also at a time when CBS is engaged in basically a corporate battle over a proposed merger with its sister company, Viacom. Does this at all play into this situation or haunt it?

DEGGANS: Yeah, well, both CBS and Viacom are owned by this company called National Amusements. And Moonves has resisted attempts to merge the two companies. And it's become something of a personal battle between him and Shari Redstone, the president of National Amusements. Redstone issued a statement today denying any allegations she was behind the New Yorker story and saying that she hoped the investigation that the board has talked about implementing is thorough, open and transparent.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Eric Deggans. Eric, thank you.

DEGGANS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Eric Deggans is NPR's first full-time TV critic.

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