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A devastating new exposé about Leslie Moonves that includes reprinted text messages exchanged by the disgraced mogul and a talent agent allegedly helping him hide an incident of sexual misconduct is putting pressure on CBS to finish an investigation into its former CEO to determine whether it should pay him $120 million it has earmarked for him.
The story from The New York Times on Wednesday suggests that Moonves and Marv Dauer, an agent attempting to reclaim his former glory, had sought to keep quiet a woman Moonves feared could cause his downfall in the #MeToo era: an actress named Bobbie Phillips.
According to the Times, Dauer introduced his client to Moonves in 1993 when the latter was president of Warner Bros. TV and fresh off successful launches of the hit shows Friends and E.R.
Phillips told the Times that she met with Moonves at the Warner Bros. lot in Burbank, where he told her he could get her a role on E.R. As she gazed at an easel displaying various shows the studio was working on, she was momentarily distracted, and that’s when Moonves allegedly shocked her with a brazen move that caused her to fear auditions for decades.
“Look how hard you make me,” Moonves said as she turned back to face him, Phillips told the newspaper.
“She saw that he had undone his trousers, exposing his erect penis,” according to the Times. “’Be my girlfriend and I’ll put you on any show,’ he said, in Ms. Phillips’s recollection — and then grabbed her by the neck, pushed her to her knees and forced his penis into her mouth,” wrote Times reporters James B. Stewart, Rachel Abrams and Ellen Gabler in the investigation.
“If Bobbie talks, I’m finished,” Moonves allegedly told Dauer years later, when reporters were investigating various claims made by other women who accused Moonves of sexually harassing them.
The Times story says Phillips quit acting for a while but is now back into it, and, while he was still CEO at CBS, Moonves reached out to Dauer, asking him to tell Phillips he could get her work in order to “make amends” for his past behavior.
The detailed revelation comes at a precarious time for CBS, which promised Moonves $120 million after he stepped aside Sept. 9, but only after it investigates claims made against its former leader. Nearly three months into its investigation, the company is remaining mum on its status and there is no timetable for a conclusion.
CBS had no comment Wednesday on the matter.
CBS also is holding $20 million in grants it promised to organizations dedicated to stamping out sexual harassment in the workplace, and has said it should determine by Dec. 14 where that money will go.
Meanwhile, CBS has been busy making changes at the top of its ranks. Joe Ianniello, the former COO, is acting CEO and is perceived the frontrunner to become the company’s permanent chief executive. Strauss Zelnick, the head of video game maker Take-Two Interactive Software, was recently named chairman of the board at CBS.
All the drama comes as Wall Street ponders the possibility that CBS could merge with Viacom, as both are controlled by Sumner and Shari Redstone.
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