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The Schmooze

CBS Fired Les Moonves, Citing Sexual Misconduct. Now He’s Back In Business.

Les Moonves presided over CBS for decades, breathing into existence shows like “Friends,” “Survivor,” and “The Big Bang Theory.” Under his leadership, CBS was the most-watched network in America for 10 years.

In September 2018, Moonves resigned from CBS, following over a dozen accusations of sexual misconduct, which a later independent investigation found credible. Now, CBS is locked in a legal battle with Moonves, as they seek to deny him $120 million in severance, citing that Moonves was fired with cause.

Now, Moonves has opened a new entertainment venture, and CBS is paying for his office.

The New York Times was first to report on Friday that Moonves has quietly opened a new company, “Moon Rise Unlimited,” in West Hollywood. According to Variety, filings for the LLC show that the new venture will focus on “film and television production” as well as “streaming services and distribution.”

Under the terms of Moonves’ contract, CBS is required to pay for the disgraced CEO’s office space for one year. Currently, the network also pays his legal bills, though Moonves will be forced to foot the cost if CBS prevails in the suit. The 10th floor suite, situated comfortably in Studio City, has ocean views.

In 2018, twelve women told the New Yorker that Moonves sexually harassed or assaulted them. These reports were followed by several more accusations of harassment by women who worked for or close to Moonves. Claims ranged back as far as 20 years, and came from CBS employees and some actresses. An extensive external investigation by an outside firm found that Moonves “engaged in multiple acts of serious nonconsensual sexual misconduct in and outside of the workplace, both before and after he came to CBS in 1995,” according to the New York Times.

Investigators spoke to 11 of the 17 women who ultimately came forward and found their accounts credible, including multiple reports that Moonves had a CBS employee “on call” to perform oral sex for him. Moonves told investigators that the oral sex he received from the employee was consensual, the New York Times reported.

Additionally, investigators found that Moonves, who denied all charges of misconduct and said that any sexual acts were consensual, obstructed the investigation. In one case, Moonves was found to have deleted texts he sent to an accuser’s manager, in which he discussed offering the accuser a role on a CBS program. In another gambit, investigators say that Moonves, told to turn over his iPad, gave investigators an iPad belonging to his son.

Time will tell what Moonves — who was the subject of a 2016 Forward society column when he was presented with an award by Elie Wiesel (“You are so close to power,” Wiesel observed then) — does with this new production and entertainment venture.

The real question is, will Hollywood — and its fans — choose to turn away entertainment made by one of the most appealing entertainment executives in the world?

Jenny Singer is the deputy lifestyle editor for the Forward. You can reach her at [email protected] or on Twitter @jeanvaljenny

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