EXCLUSIVE: One day before CBS’ quarterly earnings report and on the same day that USC has suspended the increasingly besieged Les Moonves from the School of Cinematic Arts’ Board of Councilors, the CEO has now exited the Anita Hill-led Commission on Eliminating Sexual Harassment and Advancing Equality in the Workplace.
“Mr. Moonves has decided to recuse himself from his position as one of our Commissioners,” says a letter that Deadline has obtained that was sent out Wednesday by Professor Hill to Commissioners and Delegates informing them of the CBS boss’ departure. “The Council will work with CBS to name a new Commissioner from the Company,” the letter adds. (read the full letter below).
As more and more women spoke out publicly on Harvey Weinstein and others in Tinseltown abusing or assaulting them personally and professionally, the Commission was formed in late 2017 by Kathleen Kennedy, Nina Shaw, Freada Kapor Klein and Maria Eitel to help create a safer and accountable Hollywood. With the high profile Hill named as Commission chair last year, Moonves was among 25 heavyweight industry execs formally asked to join as reps of their funds contributing companies or organizations soon after.
Read the full letter here:
To all Commissioners and Delegates:
When the Council founded this Commission, we invited you to join based on the premise that our work would be collaborative and transparent. In this spirit, we wanted to communicate with you about the events of the last several days and share an update with you. The Commission to Eliminate Sexual Harassment and Advance Equality in the Workplace supports the decision by the CBS Board of Directors to engage in an independent, impartial third-party investigation into the very serious allegations against Les Moonves published last Friday in the New Yorker. We believe that a third-party is paramount in ensuring a fair, thorough and transparent resolution. The Council created the Commission as a voluntary body that exists to change the occurrence and the culture that permits or encourages the kinds of behaviors alleged in this article.
Mr. Moonves has decided to recuse himself from his position as one of our Commissioners. The Council will work with CBS to name a new Commissioner from the Company.
As we have discussed, the Commission is not a disciplinary or monitoring organization — our mandate is to create institutional change by collaborating with you as key leaders and decision makers of this industry to affect wide-scale changes through actively defining and implementing best policies and practices.
Since inception, we have been working diligently together, both independently, and with Commission Organizations, individually and collectively, to advance our mission. We will continue to develop approaches aimed at fostering a culture of respect and human dignity throughout the industry as the best way to eliminate harassment and other abuses of power. As we engage in this work, we greatly value your input and effort in fulfilling our mission to lead the entertainment industry to a strong and equitable future.
The Council and I welcome your thoughts in how we can learn from these moments and are here for any questions you may have. We will continue to keep you updated with any developments.
Anita F. Hill, Chair
Commission to Eliminate Sexual Harassment and Advance Equality in the Workplace
In yet another fall for one of Hollywood’s most powerful men, this move comes less than a week after half a dozen women claimed sexual misconduct and assault by Moonves over the years in a piece published by the New Yorker on July 27.
“I recognize that there were times decades ago when I may have made some women uncomfortable by making advances,” Moonves was quoted in response in the New Yorker piece. “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.”
Tensions have tighten as evidence destroying allegations are now flying in the legal war between Moonves’ CBS and Shari Redstone’s National Amusement over ultimate control of the company and a possible merger with Viacom. The removal of CEO Moonves from the Commission also follows a reportedly tense CBS Board meeting on July 30 that surprised many when it ended with the Chair still in his job at the so-called zero tolerance company even as independent investigations sought to dig deeper into the claims in the Ronan Farrow penned piece.
No word yet if Moonves will be on tomorrow’s earnings call but either way his status will surely be on the minds if not the lips of all involved.