Les Moonves Investigation

Kelly Kahl, president of CBS entertainment, gave an executive session before the Television Critics Association knowing full well that a majority of questions would center around the sexual misconduct allegations brought against Les Moonves, the Chairman of the Board, President, and Chief Executive Officer of CBS Corporation. The New Yorker published Ronan Farrow’s investigation last week where six women came forward with stories about Moonves involving physical assault, sexual harassment and blacklisting the women when they refused his advances.

While CBS wanted to discuss the new fall shows presented to the TCA this afternoon, Kahl still said what he could about the investigation, the network’s response to continued workplace allegations, those who have and have not come out in support of CBS and more.

The Ongoing Investigation

CBS already started an investigation into the allegations against Moonves. One week into said investigation, there are no results yet.

“All allegations need to be and are being taken seriously,” Kahl said. “Two outside law firms have been retained to investigate. The scope of what I can talk about today is limited. There’s simply nothing else I can say about Leslie and the investigation. It’s a pretty safe bet not much I can say up here will satisfy you.”

That didn’t stop reporters from attempting variations of follow-up questions. CBS has already dealt with allegations against Morgan Freeman, Jeremy Piven, NCIS: New Orleans executive producer Brad Kern, not to mention fired Star Trek Discovery showrunners Aaron Harberts and Gretchen Berg. With that number of allegations coming out of the network, can we trust CBS to get results?

“I believe we take workplace safety very seriously,” Kern said. “I think if you look up and down the halls at CBS you’ll find a very safe environment. We have over 40 shows in production. The vast majority are excellent sets where everyone is very happy and very safe. Any time any allegation comes up on any of our shows, it’s investigated immediately. There’s no wiggle room there. Any complaint, we have a procedure we follow. It goes to HR and sometimes outside council if necessary. While maybe we are not perfect, we take everything seriously.”

Julie Chen

CBS Talent Weighs In, But This All Feels a Little Biased

Since the New Yorker published the story, various CBS executives and personalities have spoken about it. For one, Moonves’ wife, who is also CBS’ Big Brother host and The Talk co-host, Julie Chen said she stood by him. Kahl acknowledged some of the other voices we’ve heard, and his own.

“[CBS Films President] Terry Press wrote eloquently about the situation,” Kahl said. “I think Stephen Colbert spoke thoughtfully and powerfully on his show this past week. They’ve all struggled to express their feelings. I struggle as well. Leslie’s been an excellent boss and a mentor for a long time. He put me in this job. At the same time, we must respect the voices that come forward.”

Within CBS, according to Kahl, there have been many people expressing support privately as well.

“Every exec that came to see me, every female exec who came to see me, were dismayed by what they read,” Kahl said. “That’s not their experience. All came to me and said they feel CBS entertainment is a nurturing, welcoming environment. Many of their careers have advanced at CBS. Almost all our department heads are women. They feel supported. I try to help them do their jobs to the best of my ability.”

Whoever those executives are, they’re not the show runners or talent on CBS shows. Asked specifically which showrunners or talent spoke to Kahl, he said none have.

“I have not had any direct discussions with any of them about the matter,” Kahl said. “Again, I believe our sets and our shows are great places to work, great environments. If they have concerns, I hope they will come forward and tell us. I think you’re going to see a bunch of people today who are excited to be at CBS.”

With most of the sexual assault, harassment and misconduct cases we have seen in the last year, they are often followed by several comments from people on both sides of the issue. What we very rarely see is a genuine apology, someone saying, “I did this and I’m sorry I did that.”

Moonves released a statement expressing regret over mistakes, but no apology to the women he attacked. /Film asked Kahl if Moonves might apologize to the women in the New Yorker story, either publicly or privately, but Kahl could not answer.

“I can’t speak to that,” Kahl said. “There’s an investigation underway. There’s nothing I can add to that.”

His face sure did sink when he heard the word “apologize” though.

CBS

CBS Continues to Problematically Toot Their Own Horn

Kahl wanted to credit CBS’s human resources department for taking allegations seriously. Many questions to him involved specifics about what happens when someone comes forward.

“I believe we take workplace safety very seriously,” Kahl said. “I think if you look up and down the halls at CBS you’ll find a very safe environment. We have over 40 shows in production. The vast majority are excellent sets where everyone is very happy and very safe. Any time any allegation comes up on any of our shows, it’s investigated immediately. There’s no wiggle room there. Any complaint, we have a procedure we follow. It goes to HR and sometimes outside council if necessary. While maybe we are not perfect, we take everything seriously.”

This is a problematic defense. “Most of our 40 shows are just fine” doesn’t cut it. If even one of the shows has a producer committing harassment, having 39 good ones isn’t a free pass. Kahl acknowledged that every case is unique.

“I don’t believe there is a one size fits all investigation,” Kahl said. “I know any time and there are multiple ways by the way to get in touch with HR including several anonymous ways, HR must investigate. If someone comes to me, I have to call HR. How they investigate I think depends on the case. I can’t speak to what their protocol is but everything is investigated. The hopeful result is to find the truth. I believe both in our HR department and any outside council we’ve ever retained to get to the truth.”

Sometimes there are other forces in the mix. CBS produces shows with outside studios like Warner Brothers, so if a situation arises on those shows, they work together.

“Generally the lead studio would take responsibility for any issues including things like HR, staffing, things like that,” Kahl said. “There is certainly consultation but the studio takes the lead on practically all creative issues. I think the studio that produces the show should be responsible for what goes on on that show. We have great collaboration with both our internal studios and outside. We have great relationships with our studio partners.”

Again, the amount of investigations cited above does suggest that maybe CBS HR is not nipping things in the bud. Kahl believes they are.

“Our HR department does a great job,” Kahl said. “I don’t think anyone would want them looking into you if they choose to investigate. They do a very thorough job. Look, in cases where there’s a question, we’ve retained outside firms. The bottom line is to get to the truth. My dealings with the human resources department have always been straightforward and honest”

We’ll have more on the Les Moonves investigation as they develop.

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