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CBS CEO Les Moonves. Photo: Greg Doherty/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Longtime CBS chief executive and current Chairman Les Moonves admitted to unwanted advances towards women between the 1980's and late 2000's in a statement to The New Yorker, which appeared in an investigative piece authored by Ronan Farrow detailing allegations of sexual misconduct.

Why it matters: The saga could compromise his leadership position within the company and could complicate CBS's messy fight for independence with its parent company, that's being led by Moonves.

"I recognize that there were times decades ago when I may have made some women uncomfortable by making advances. 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."
— Moonves

CBS said it would be investigating allegations of sexual harassment against Moonves. 

  • In a statement to The New Yorker, it says it does not believe, however, "that the picture of our company created in The New Yorker represents a larger organization that does its best to treat its tens of thousands of employees with dignity and respect.

The details: The piece cites six women who allege Moonves sexually harassed them in the 1980's, which included forcible touching or kissing during business meetings, physical intimidation and threats to derail their careers. All of the women argue that rejecting his advances hurt their careers.

  • Illeana Douglas, an actress and writer, told Farrow on the record that she was fired for not participating.
  • Janet Jones, a writer who alleges that she had to shove Moonves off her after he forcibly kissed her at a work meeting.
  • Actress Christine Peters said Moonves slid his hand up her thigh and touched her underwear.

Farrow said he spoke with 30 current and former CBS employees who say that Moonves' behavior was a well-known secret and that it extended throughout the network.

  • They also say his behavior contributed to a misogynistic culture where those who also partook in deviant behaviors were promoted and celebrated and management often turned a blind eye.

Moonves has been chairman of CBS since 2016 and has been a high-level executive with the corporation since 1995. He is credited with turning the once-struggling broadcaster's business around, and making it the more lucrative business to its former sister company, Viacom.

The backstory: CBS has stood by Moonves throughout a publicly contentious fight with its primary shareholder, Shari Redstone, Vice Chairwoman of National Amusements Inc., a holding company, over its independence.

  • During that battle, National Amusements alleged that a member of the CBS Board of Directors physically and verbally abused another member of the Board. Sources told Axios that figure was not Moonves.

Go deeper

19 mins ago - Health

Fauci: COVID vaccine rollout needs to prioritize people of color

Anthony Fauci. Photo: Alex Wong via Getty Images

Infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci highlighted the need to address racial disparities in the COVID-19 vaccination process, per an interview with The New England Journal of Medicine on Wednesday.

What he’s saying: "I think that's the one thing we really got to be careful of. We don't want in the beginning ... most of the people who are getting it are otherwise, well, middle-class white people."

The Mischief Makers

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Several Republican and Democratic lawmakers are emerging as troublemakers within their parties and political thorns for their leadership.

Why it matters: We're calling this group "The Mischief Makers" — members who threaten to upend party unity — the theme eclipsing Washington at the moment — and potentially jeopardize the Democrats' or Republicans' position heading into the 2022 midterms.

Obama speechwriter fears Biden unity drive is one-sided

Cody Keenan (right) is shown heading to Marine One in December 2009. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

President Obama's former speechwriter says he's "preemptively frustrated" with President Biden's effort to find unity with Republicans.

What they're saying: Cody Keenan told Axios that Biden's messaging team has "struck all the right chords," but at some point "they're gonna have to answer questions like, 'Why didn't you achieve unity?' when there's an entire political party that's already acting to stop it."

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