CBS Entertainment Head Defends Company’s Culture Amid Les Moonves Scandal

CBS Entertainment president Kelly Kahl took the stage at the at the Television Critics Association’s summer press tour Sunday prepared to answer questions about network C.E.O. Les Moonves, who was accused of sexual misconduct by six women in a recent New Yorker story.

“Obviously this has been a tough week,” Kahl said, noting that he’d had many female colleagues come to him since the news broke who were “dismayed” by the reporting, which he said didn’t represent the company as they experienced it.

While repeatedly offering the disclaimer that he couldn’t comment on any ongoing investigations into Moonves or other CBS employees accused of misconduct such as NCIS: New Orleans showrunner Brad Kern, he assured the gathered journalists that CBS Entertainment is “committed to a collaborative, inclusive and safe workplace. I’m not saying we’re perfect. No large company is….And there’s always room for improvement. But a lot of us have been here for such a long time precisely because CBS Entertainment is such a fulfilling place to work.”

“I’d like to point out [that] at CBS Entertainment, 61 percent of the execs at the VP level or higher [are female],” he said, adding that the heads of the drama, comedy and daytime programming are all women. “A lot of what you see on the air at CBS is because of their efforts.” He said there was “absolutely no slowdown of people coming in the door that want to pitch us shows.”

Pressed on the harassment allegations, Kahl declared, “We must respect the voices that come forward. All must be and have been taken seriously,” and insisted that with over 40 shows currently in production, “the vast majority of those shows are excellent sets…Any time any allegations come up on any of our shows it is investigated immediately. There is no wiggle room.”

He said that all allegations are investigated by the H.R. department, and if necessary go on to outside counsel. (Both the New Yorker piece about Moonves and the Vulture story about Kern reported on problems within CBS’s culture and process that allows this kind of alleged behavior to flourish.) On the Kern investigation, he said, “I am told we will have results soon.”

Kahl would not speak specifically to the Moonves situation. The C.E.O. has denied specific allegations within the New Yorker story, and released a statement saying: “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. This is a time when we all are appropriately focused on how we help improve our society, and we at CBS are committed to being part of the solution.”

The CBS board had also released a statement noting, “All allegations of personal misconduct are to be taken seriously. 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.”

As Vanity Fair previously reported, Moonves signed a new contract in May that specifies the conditions by which he can be dismissed from his job, including “for cause.”

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