In his expose for The New Yorker, journalist Ronan Farrow presents allegations of sexual misconduct by CBS chairman and CEO Leslie Moonves and spells out what appears to be a climate of sexual harassment and looking the other way at CBS.
Farrow’s report includes not just one or two women, but several women, many of whom go on the record, and describe disturbing and systemic patterns of sexual misconduct by Moonves.
Like actress Illeana Douglas.
In addition to being an actor, Douglas is a writer, director, producer, host of Turner Classic Movies’ show “Trailblazing Women,” and author of the my-life-in-movies podcast and book, “I Blame Dennis Hopper.”
Douglas worked in New York as a stand-up comedian and sketch comedy artist, she got a job “screaming” for Martin Scorsese’s “The Last Temptation of Christ,” her IMDb page says. Douglas then went on to work with Scorsese in “New York Stories,” “Goodfellas,” and “Cape Fear.” Douglas starred in “To Die For” with Matt Dillon, was in “Grace of My Heart” and “Ghost World.”
She’s appeared in TV and cable shows “Entourage,” “Ugly Betty” and Douglas was nominated for an Emmy for her portrayal of Angela in Alan Ball’s “Six Feet Under.” She is the grand-daughter of screen legend Melvyn Douglas.
The story Douglas shared with Farrow of the sexual assault she says took place is at once harrowing and infuriating.
Moonves, 68, has been married to CBS personality Julie Chen since 2004. Chen defended her husband on Twitter.
Farrow won a Pulitzer Prize for exposing movie mogul Harvey Weinstein’s alleged systematic and serial incidents of rape and sexual misconduct.
Here’s what you need to know about Illeana Douglas’ allegations:
1. Illeana Douglas Met Les Moonves in 1996. He Was a Fan & Wanted Her at CBS
Douglas, Farrow writes, met Moonves in 1996 when she was shopping for a TV show to write and act in. Moonves was the recently named president of CBS Entertainment. He showed interest adding he was a fan of her performances in Martin Scorsese’s “Cape Fear” and “Goodfellas” and wanted her to work with his network.
Douglas told Farrow it was a “big sell” where he suggested she’d make it big with a “…house with a pool, you’re gonna love it, it’s a great life.” And she agreed to a deal: $300,000 for the rights to her exclusively. But the show she wrote, they canned and instead put her to work in a show called “Queens.” A year after meeting Moonves, as the show was set to pilot, Moonves called Douglas’ manager and said there was a problem with Douglas and fellow actor and show co-star, Penelope Ann Miller.
Douglas was stunned because in a reading, CBS honchos laughed and Mooonves gave her an atta-girl. Moonves requested to meet Douglas alone. The two had been working together for several months by that point, she told Farrow.
“He seemed more than just my boss. He was very much like a father figure,” Douglas told Farrow.
2. Douglas’ Meeting With Moonves Turned Into a Sexual Assault, She Said
When she met with Moonves to talk about the show, she said he pivoted to the personal and asked if she was dating anyone. Douglas told Farrow her and Scorsese’s relationship was “coming to an end” and she “didn’t know what to say at that point. I was, like, ‘I’m single, yes, no, maybe.’” And Douglas pivoted back to the TV show but Moonves was persistent. Douglas told Farrow that Moonves said it would “…just be between you and me. Come on, you’re not some nubile virgin.”
Douglas said Moonves, “in a millisecond, he’s got one arm over me, pinning me” and began “violently kissing” Douglas pressing her down onto a couch with her arms raised above her head. Douglas told Farrow, “What it feels like to have someone hold you down—you can’t breathe, you can’t move. The physicality of it was horrendous.”
Douglas said she laid weakened under Moonves: “You sort of black out. You think, ‘How long is this going to go on? I was just looking at this nice picture of his family and his kids. I couldn’t get him off me.”
Douglas next describes what can only be called an attempted rape: Moonves had an erection, yanked her skirt up and then began to “thrust against her.” It was then she told Farrow, her “fear overcame her paralysis.”
“At that point, you’re a trapped animal,” she told Farrow. “Your life is flashing before your eyes.” Moonves asked her what she took as a question about his performance: “So, what do you think?” Douglas told Farrow she decided to use his status as her boss in her answer: “Yes, for the head of a network you’re some good kisser.”
Moonves was not pleased, got up and Douglas grabbed her bag and began to leave but Moonves blocked her way out, pushed her against a wall, pressed his body against hers with his face in hers, she said. Douglas told Farrow the episode was “physically scary.” Moonves said they should “…keep this between you and me, right?” Douglas said she repeated the boss line: “No, sir, we won’t tell anyone that you’re a good kisser.”
Moonves let go and walked away. Douglas said the attack “…has stayed with me the rest of my life, that terror.”
Douglas told Farrow she cried when she left Moonves’ office: “My skirt is all twisted. I’m standing in the hall and I thought of his family.” Douglas told Farrow that Moonves’s assistant offered to validate her parking. Douglas said she remembers “thinking, ‘Does she know? Does this happen all the time?’” Once in her car, Douglas said she “lost it. I felt sick.”
At that moment, she got a call from her manager who said Moonves had just called to say the meeting went well and they’d had fun. Douglas told Farrow, “I thought, Oh, my God, he’s covered his tracks.”
3. Douglas Told a Friend & Even Though She Was Sexually Assaulted by Moonves, She Was Afraid to Report Him
Initially deciding to “bury it” Douglas told a friend later that day what happened. The friend was actor Craig Chester who told The New Yorker, “She was trying not to cry, but her voice was shaking. I’ve never seen her that emotional before. She said that he got on top of her and held her down and she couldn’t get away. If it was any other situation outside business, I would have said, ‘Let’s go to the cops.’”
But going to the police and reporting what happened would mean her career would be over. And maybe worse: “…career suicide.”
Moonves showed up for rehearsals, and eyed her in an attempt frighten or threaten her, she told The New Yorker. Douglas said she was shaking and thought she might pass out. People noticed. Penelope Ann Miller told The New Yorker, “There was obviously something going on with her emotionally. When she came in to test, everything was on. And then, after, on set, it was like she wasn’t there.”
In 2017, Douglas told Miller what Moonves did. Miller told The New Yorker, “Hearing her story, it all made sense.”
At the next rehearsal, Moonves cursed at Douglas saying she wasn’t “even trying.” But she inferred Moonves was referencing her refusal to “comply with his advances and to maintain her composure afterward.”
Douglas told The New Yorker that even with staying quiet about what he’d done, Moonves was “berating me.” She said she cried on the set and was unable to act in the comedy. Later Moonves called her and said that not only was she not funny she would not “get a fucking dime” and would “never work at this network again.”
CBS said in a statement to The New Yorker that Moonves admits he tried to kiss Douglas but denied “…any characterization of ‘sexual assault,’ intimidation, or retaliatory action.”
Her manager dumped her after Moonves and CBS said they were replacing Douglas in the show. And Creative Artists Agency did the same: “I love the way C.A.A. fired me. They never told me I was fired. They just kept wishing me the best of luck.”
4. Douglas’ Former Lover Martin Scorsese Offered His Lawyers to Help Douglas
Douglas contacted her longtime but now former paramour Scorsese and told him what Moonves did adding she wanted to sue. Scorsese told The New Yorker he “remembers Douglas calling him about the allegation and being shocked by it …” but “… urged her to be cautious about taking legal action against such a powerful person, but agreed to refer her to his law firm.”
Douglas worked with an attorney who confirmed what Douglas said happened: “I believed Illeana. What happened to her was reprehensible.” But it was still a he-said, she-said.
Still, she wanted her wages and the lawyer called CBS’ and Moonves’ bluff when the lawyer told a CBS staffer to, “Hey, ask Les what happened in the room, and he’ll probably want you to do the right thing here. I felt he knew what I was saying.”
Farrow and The New Yorker looked at CBS communications and it was clear someone in CBS Business Affairs “…took (the lawyer’s) comments about what happened in the room very seriously.” CBS paid Douglas $125,000 and then inked a deal where she’d be paid $250,000 to be in a CBS miniseries which the lawyer and Douglas told Farrow was a “cover.”
“I go from being sexually assaulted, fired for not having sex with Les Moonves, fired by everyone, to ‘We are going to pay you in full and we also want you to be on this miniseries.’ My understanding is, this is what they were going to do in exchange for not suing.”
Next, Moonves called Douglas to ask if she was going to appear in the miniseries. Like nothing ever happened. Douglas said she agreed though she remained frightened of Moonves. He told her, “‘Tits and guns, baby. Tits and guns.” The miniseries, “Bella Mafia,” was about mob WAGS and was all sex and violence hence the “tits and guns.”
When he asked if they were good she said, “Yes, sir.”
The New Yorker spoke to actors who were working with Douglas on “Queens” for confirmation. One, Judge Reinhold, said, “Illeana was hilariously unique in her comedy and fun to work with. We were all surprised and disappointed that she left.”
5. Douglas Spoke & Wrote About the Sexual Assault But People Told Her Not to Name Moonves
Douglas did share her story about being sexually assaulted by Moonves and, “even published a lightly fictionalized version of it in a 2006 compilation called, “Fired!” And actually performed it: “I didn’t exactly keep it a secret. People used to come up to me afterward and go, ‘I know who it is,’ and just laugh about it.”
Douglas did act in “Bella Mafia” but she “never auditioned or ever had any kind of television-show deal at CBS.”
Douglas said people in the industry had advised her to not not Moonves in The New Yorker piece but she did it anyway “to protect other women.”
She said she was, for Moonves, the “perfect victim.”
Friday after the story came out, Douglas issued the following statement:
“Real change will occur when victims of sexual assaults are not stigmatized as whistle-blowers, or people was some kind of agenda for coming forward.
Real change will occur when opportunities to work at companies were assaults have occurred are no longer condoned.
Speaking for myself, real change will occur when I can walk through the front doors of CBS and resume the creative and working relationship that was so tragically cut short in 1997.”
Moonves issued a statement in advance of the story hitting the streets. In it he says he made “advances’ years ago and admits they were mistakes.
CBS’ statement says it’s looking at the allegations.
“All allegations of personal misconduct are to be taken seriously,” the network stated. “The Independent Directors of CBS have committed to investigating claims that violate the Company’s clear policies in that regard. Upon the conclusion of that investigation, which involves recently reported allegations that go back several decades, the Board will promptly review the findings and take appropriate action.”
CBS added: “The timing of this report comes in the midst of the Company’s very public legal dispute. While that litigation process continues, the CBS management team has the full support of the independent board members. Along with that team, we will continue to focus on creating value for our shareowners.”
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