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CBS board will not suspend CEO Les Moonves over sexual harassment allegations during investigation



The CBS board of trustees has elected not to suspend longtime CEO Les Moonves during its investigation into sexual harassment claims against him – at least for the time being.

The board convened on Monday in response to an explosive article detailing six women’s allegations against Mr Moonves, as well as claims that the network responded inadequately to sexual harassment by its other employees.

The board was reportedly considering whether or not to suspend Mr Moonves, who has led the company for more than two decades. On Monday evening, the company released a statement saying the board was “in the process of selecting outside counsel to conduct an independent investigation”.

“No other action was taken on this matter at today’s board meeting,” the company said, adding that its annual stockholders meeting would be postponed.

The company’s fell by approximately 4.5 per cent on Monday, amid uncertainty over who would lead the company. The loses followed a 6 per cent slide in CBS stock on Friday, when the allegations first surfaced.

In article published Friday in the New Yorker , four women claimed Mr Moonves had forcibly kissed or touched them during business meetings from the 1980s to the late 2000s. Two more women who worked with Mr Moonves said he had physically or verbally intimidated them in the same time period.

Among the accusers were Emmy-nominated actress Illeana Douglas, writer Janet Jones, and How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days producer Christine Peters.

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In a statement, Mr Moonves acknowledged making advances in the past that may have made women “uncomfortable”. But he said that he had always “understood and respected – and abided by the principle – that ‘no’ means ‘no’.”

He added that he had never misused his position to hinder anyone’s career, and claimed to have “promoted a culture of respect and opportunity for all employees” at CBS.

The 68-year-old’s alma mater, Bucknell University, removed references to Mr Moonves from its website over the weekend. University President John Bravman said in a letter to students and staff that the school “will not stand for sexual misconduct – on campus or beyond,” according to PennLive.com.

Mr Moonves gave the school’s commencement address in 2016, according to its website.

Mr Moonves has had a successful television career of more than three decades, starting with his role as a executive at 20th Century Fox. He later moved on to Warner Bros Television, and then to CBS, which quickly became one of the most-watched networks in the country.

His wife, Julie Chen, defended her husband in a statement on Friday, calling him a “good man and a loving father”.

“He has always been a kind, decent and moral human being,” said Ms Chen, the host of CBS’s Big Brother. “I fully support my husband and stand behind him and his statement.”

CBS also came under fire this weekend over allegations that it had promoted male employees who were the subject of sexual misconduct suits.

The company said in a statement that it took reports of sexual misconduct “very seriously”. But it claimed the New Yorker failed to paint an accurate picture of “a larger organisation that does its best to treat its tens of thousands of employees with dignity and respect”.

“We are seeing vigorous discourse in our country about equality, inclusion, and safety in the workplace, and CBS is committed to being part of the solution to those important issues,” the company said.

The reports about Mr Moonves are the latest in a string of allegations against powerful Hollywood figures accused of sexual misconduct. Film producer Harvey Weinstein is currently facing sexual assault charges in New York, while CBS anchor Charlie Rose was fired over sexual harassment allegations in November.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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