CBS Exec Kelly Kahl Addresses Les Moonves Scandal; Hit With Relentless Sexual Harassment Questions – TCA

Francis Specker/CBS

“Obviously this has been a tough week at CBS,” network entertainment President Kelly Kahl said first thing today at the company’s TCA presentation. “I know there was some speculation we might cancel this,” he added of the presentation, as CBS struggles corporately and more under the weight of the sexual misconduct allegations against CEO Les Moonves.

“I struggle as well,” Kahl revealed on his personal feelings about the multiple accusations against Moonves that emerged in a New Yorker piece on July 27. “Leslie has been an excellent boss and a mentor as well, at the same time we need to respect the voices that comes forward,” the exec, who was appointed to his job in May 2017, stated, clearly wanting to take the matter off the TCA table.

“The scope of what I can talk about is limited,” Kahl tried to conclude, with an eye to legalities, as was the case on the Moonves-participating CBS quarterly earnings call last week. “There is nothing more I can say about Les or the situation.”

If the exec thought that his opening remarks were going to effectively shut down further queries about the half-dozen sexual misconduct allegations against Moonves, Kahl was mistaken. Question after question relentlessly took aim at the claims, the culture at the supposedly zero tolerance policy CBS and the on-going investigations.

It was, understandably, a far far cry from the standing ovation that Moonves himself received when he walked on-stage at CBS’ Upfront Presentation on May 16 with his “how’s your week been?” quip. That was a sarcastic reference to the then smoldering legal battle and Board showdown with Shari Redstone and National Amusement over the future of the company and possible merger with Viacom.

“The goal of any investigation is to get to the truth and I believe they will get to the truth,” Kahl pivoted today, as he was asked about not just Moonves, but the now suspended NCIS producer Brad Kern and the on-going investigation over harassment claims against Kern, as well as about the overall culture at CBS. Gender and racial casting were also in the mix for Kahl but, solo on the stage at the Beverly Hilton, the CBS Entertainment boss could not escape his company being hit at the highest levels, from executive suites to the sets of some of its biggest shows.

“Not saying we’re perfect, no large company is and there is always room for improvement,” Kahl told the assembled critics at the outset, stressing throughout the session that he believed CBS was also doing a better job on gender and other inclusion metrics both in front of and behind cameras. “We are committed to a collaborative, inclusive and safe workplace,” he asserted. “Even with all that is going on around us, we are still running our business.”

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