Katz, Marshall & Banks partner Debra Katz was quoted in the New Yorker’s exposé of CBS CEO Les Moonves, and spoke with NPR about how companies often fail to check sexual harassment when it is occurring at the highest levels within their organization.
Leslie Moonves holds a top post at CBS and is one of the most powerful executives in American media. For over two decades, he led CBS Corporation through a time of rapid change in the media world. His reputation and position at CBS Corp created a power dynamic ripe for sexual harassment. At least six women who worked with Moonves have accused him of sexual harassment, according to those who spoke with The New Yorker.
Women describe forcible touching and kissing by Moonves, as well as physical intimidation and threats. And all who spoke to the investigative reporter, Ronan Farrow, believe that their career aspirations were derailed once they rejected Moonves.
This attitude of entitlement and disrespect of women extended well beyond Moonves’ direct harassment and appears to have pervaded CBS’s corporate culture. CBS Corp has paid numerous settlements to women who complained about men’s behavior at CBS News – specifically, the New Yorker reviewed three separate six-figure settlement with “60 Minutes” employees.
The stories shared in The New Yorker are chilling, but CBS followed a pattern similar to other cases of sexual harassment in the workplace exposed by the #MeToo movement. “If you have a company with an abuser on the top, they typically surround themselves with people like them, who engage in similar behavior,” explains Ms. Katz in the New Yorker piece. “It can put a set of enablers in place, who work to discredit and manage out women who come forward with allegations.”
Ms. Katz expanded on that idea in an interview with NPR. “[I]f you have an organization that is led by someone who engages in egregious sexual harassment, that behavior bleeds down throughout the organization.”
This top-down culture of harassment explains why CBS claimed ignorance when the allegations against Charlie Rose broke, and their subsequent apathy in the face of serious complaints of misconduct and abuse.
CBS’s board is now discussing the allegations made against Moonves, and will decide on his future pending a formal investigation. These accusations against Moonves reveal that he was both a cause and a symptom of a much larger problem at CBS, and the media industry in general. Getting rid of Moonves – if evidence supports the claims against him – would just be the start. Companies must do more to eradicate toxic corporate cultures that tolerate and ignore sexual harassment.
Ms. Katz was also interviewed by Bloomberg Radio (beginning at 6:45), and quoted in separate Los Angeles Times articles, "CBS allegations just the latest in long history of sexual harassment claims in network news," and "CBS' board announces investigation in Chief Executive Leslie Moonves' alleged misconduct."
Read the New Yorker piece here, and listen to Ms. Katz’s interview with NPR below.