Financial Times Affiliated Outlet Removes Moonves Quotes From Disputed Interview

Les Moonves

A news article published in December claimed to have an interview with the former CBS chief — but his reps have denied that he spoke to the outlet.

An outlet run by the Financial Times has taken the unusual step of yanking all quotes attributed to Les Moonves from an article about the former CEO of CBS after his representatives said he never spoke to the reporters who wrote the story, which remains published, though now with a lengthy "Editor's note" explaining the omissions.

"The original version of this article published on Dec. 18 included quotes attributed to Les Moonves and a headline related to those quotes. On Jan. 8, a spokesperson for Mr. Moonves issued a statement denying that Mr. Moonves spoke with reporters from Agenda in December 2018 or at any other time,"  begins the note from editors.

"Agenda" describes itself as "a boardroom platform" that provides "intelligence for today's corporate directors."

The Agenda article, written by Stephanie Forshee and Jennifer Williams-Alvarez, is focused on the decision by CBS board members not to pay Moonves the $120 million severance the company had earmarked for him, given there were numerous allegations that he had sexually harassed several women.

Moonves has denied the allegations and a deadline for him to challenge his termination with cause and fight for his severance is Jan 17. In the Agenda article, Moonves was quoted saying that his ouster "may only be the beginning," though the line no longer exists in the story at its website now. 

The story today is replete with quotes from corporate governance experts praising CBS' decision. "No tears will be shed for his lost golden parachute," says John Coffee of Columbia Law School, for example. His "no tears shed" line is now included in the Agenda's new headline.

The Agenda editor's note also describes how its reporters contacted Moonves — or at least someone who claimed to be him.

"Our reporters had each dialed a number obtained from a subscription public records database that purported to be Mr. Moonves's number and spoken with an individual who identified himself as Mr. Moonves," the note reads. "The individual had knowledge of the CBS board's decision and the history behind it. We stand by our reporters' portrayal of those conversations but, in light of the statement from Mr. Moonves, we have removed the quotes from the article."

Moonves stepped down as CEO on Sept. 9, though the company said then it would retain him for up to two more years as an unpaid adviser while paying for his office and security detail. 

CBS had no comment. Representatives for Agenda and Moonves were unavailable for comment.