The misleading headline on the Associated Press story yesterday read:
Les Moonves allegations: LA prosecutors declined to file sex abuse charges against CBS chief.
My first thought was, wow, that was fast. The Ronan Farrow piece about six women claiming Moonves had sexually harassed and/or assaulted them only came out this weekend, and the DA’s office has already decided not to file charges against him? Perhaps you thought something similar, or that Moonves had been found innocent of the charges and the whole thing has behind him.
Unless you read the actual story, which said:
A woman told law enforcement she was sexually abused by CBS chief executive Les Moonves in the 1980s, but Los Angeles prosecutors declined the case because the statute of limitations expired.
That’s very different from what the AP’s headline implied. There was no finding that Moonves had or hadn’t committed the heinous acts against the woman who filed the complaint, only that too much time had passed (30 years) for any legal action to be taken against him. Last year, a new law went into effect in California revoking the 10 year statute of limitations on rape and sexual assault cases, but because her claim was made before the law was changed, there was nothing the prosecutors could do, unfortunately.
Meanwhile, too much of the coverage this week has been about whether CBS can afford to remove Moonves from his position at the top of the company. There have been columns about how he’s the reason CBS has thrived for so long, and how he’s been supportive of women, and how his departure would impact the corporation’s battle with Shari Redstone, who runs Viacom, the former CBS corporate partner. But there’s very little discussion of what Moonves’ putative attacks on these women did to them, both personally and professionally.
It’s reminiscent of the stories at Fox News Channel under Roger Ailes, where the boss’ disgusting abuse of power allowed such violations to go on within other parts of the company (e.g. CBS News and “60 Minutes,” where no one did anything about Charlie Rose’s transgressions until last year). Moreover, Farrow says, “during Moonves’ tenure, men at CBS News who were accused of sexual misconduct were promoted, even as the company paid settlements to women with complaints.” Meanwhile, the victims (e.g. actress Illeana Douglas, as well as a writer and two producers) had their careers derailed and their personal lives turned inside out. Where’s the compassion for them?
Whenever allegations like these are made against a man, some of his friends and colleagues always come forward to say they never had any problem with him or saw him acting in an inappropriate manner with anyone. None of what they say matters, because these improprieties rarely take place in front of witnesses. As we’ve seen in the cases of Harvey Weinstein and others, it usually happens in the man’s hotel room or office or other locale. He may be a great guy when you interact with him but an ogre behind closed doors. Believe it or not, there are a lot of women Louis CK didn’t masturbate in front of. Irrelevant.
To make my point, take a look at this statement from Terry Press, president of CBS Films, who wrote on her personal Facebook page:
I do not believe that it is my place to question the accounts put forth by the women but I do find myself asking that if we are examining the industry as it existed decades before through the lens of 2018 should we also discuss a path to learning, reconciliation, and forgiveness?
It doesn’t matter how the industry existed in the past. It was ALWAYS wrong for men to treat women this way. It is only now that their stories are being believed and some accountability dished out. There can’t be even the beginning of a reconciliation process until the predator confesses and expresses remorse, which Moonves has yet to do.
To reach a point where we can accept some space between zero accountability and complete destruction, we must first grapple with the issue of equivalency. If we paint episodes of vulgar (and deeply regrettable) behavior from 20 years ago with the same brush as serial criminal behavior, we will never move forward and more importantly, we eschew the complicated nuances of context for the easier path of absolutes.
I agree, unless she’s trying to write off Moonves’ behavior as merely vulgar. Pinning a woman down and forcing yourself on her (even without intercourse) or kissing her without permission or thrusting your hand under her skirt all qualify criminal behavior, to which you can add the word “serial” when it occurs over and over again.
And again, where’s the empathy for the victims?
On the same front, there’s another sickening story this week from The Washington Post about Corey Coleman, former head of human resources for the Federal Emergency Management Agency:
In an interview, [FEMA Administrator William “Brock”] Long described a “toxic” environment in the human resources department under Coleman at FEMA headquarters. Starting in 2015, investigators said, Coleman hired many men who were friends and college fraternity brothers and women he met at bars and on online dating sites. He then promoted some of them to roles throughout the agency without going through proper federal hiring channels.
Coleman then transferred some of the women in and out of departments, some to regional offices, so his friends could try to have sexual relationships with them, according to employees’ statements during interviews with investigators….
Long said many valued employees in the human resources department left because of Coleman’s “unacceptable leadership style, good people who wouldn’t put up with it.”
Can you imagine what it was like to work in a place where, if you had a problem with a co-worker, you had to take your complaint to the HR department this lowlife ran? How many people’s lives did he allegedly ruin in his seven years on the job?
As for CBS, the corporation says it’s hiring outside counsel to look into the allegations against Moonves, but in the meantime, he gets to keep his corner office and full authority. In the end, if any of these women’s stories are verified, regardless of how long ago they took place, there must be repercussions for him and — if the victims so desire — a public airing of the offenses and the punishment.
Doing so will send a message not only within CBS, but to other businesses (and agencies) where powerful men have been taking advantage of women for too long.