As we have learned over the last few months, Les Moonves has a long history of sexual harassment. Ronan Farrow’s reporting on Les Moonves’s prolific and extensive abuse of power has resulted in additional investigation and analysis by other media outlets into how he was insulated from consequence and therefore emboldened and enabled to continue terrorising women.
The New York Times reported yesterday that as recently as July, many members of the CBS board were still in full support of him. One of them allegedly said during a meeting that, “I don’t care if 30 more women come forward and allege this kind of stuff. Les is our leader and it wouldn’t change my opinion of him.” Well that’s comforting. The board only moved to get rid of him when it emerged that he had withheld information from them about his accusers. Which tells you something about rich white dude bro code. They don’t get mad at each other for forcing themselves on women. They get mad when you don’t tell them about it over scotch and cigars.
But, remember, Les Moonves has made them a lot of money. And they were hoping that he could make them even more money. At what cost? We’re beginning to see just how many women he forced himself upon, in the industry and beyond. But harassment is about power. And it can be inflicted emotionally as well as physically, which was the point of Linda Bloodworth Thomason’s (Designing Women) guest column published in The Hollywood Reporter yesterday. Les Moonves never locked her in a room and shoved his tongue or penis into her mouth. He did, however, derail her career. As she writes, he seemed to have “like a personal vendetta” against her and she had no idea why, although she did observe that under his stewardship, shows centered around women were no longer prioritised and he deliberately made sure that her pitches, whether they came from her or from big stars, like Bette Midler, were repeatedly rejected. People who wanted to work with her were shut down. This is the sh-t you can’t quantify. This is the insidious f-cksh-t that has also held women back from advancement forever. And this is just an example of how it works, as Linda remembers:
During that period, because my contract was so valuable, I continued trying to win over Moonves. And he continued turning down every pilot I wrote. Often, if he would catch me in the parking lot, he would make sure to tell me that my script was one of the best he’d read but that he had decided, in the end, not to do it. It always seemed that he enjoyed telling me this. Just enough to keep me in the game. I was told he refused to give my scripts to any of the stars he had under contract. Then, I began to hear from female CBS employees about his mercurial, misogynist behavior, with actresses being ushered in and out of his office. His mantra, I was told, was, “Why would I wanna cast ’em if I don’t wanna fuck ’em?” And he was an angry bully who enjoyed telling people, “I will tear off the top of your head and piss on your brain!”
And later on in the piece:
It would have been so easy (for him), not to mention honorable, to simply tell me he was never going to put a show of mine on the air. That was certainly his right. But instead, he kept me hopping and hoping.
“Just enough to keep me in the game.”
“He kept me hopping and hoping.”
I feel that. I f-cking feel that. And I’m sure many of you do too. That’s the f-cking bullsh-t you can’t go to HR with. You know what it’s like? That dangling game that Les Moonves was playing there? It’s like when a guy breaks up with you but keeps calling you, keeps confusing you, so that he doesn’t have to be with you but he still gets the satisfaction that you still want to be with him. Same family. Same manipulation. Where do they learn this?
Yours in gossip,