Stephen Colbert Speaks Out About Moonves, Reflects on #MeToo

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Although he is directly employed by Leslie Moonves, the embattled CBS chairman and CEO accused by six women of sexual misconduct, Late Show host Stephen Colbert didn’t sidestep the issue on his TV show, calling the year-old #MeToo movement for women “a welcome sense of relief that something is finally happening.”

After his opening monologue where he “made a few jokes about my boss being in trouble,” Colbert then took three minutes of air-time to talk about the #MeToo movement and “powerful men taking sexual advantage of relatively powerless employees.”

“We know it’s wrong now and we knew it was wrong then,” he said. “And how do we know we knew it was wrong then? Because we know these men tried to keep the stories from coming out back then.”

Later, he calls into question “whether the disappearing of the accused from public life is the right thing to do,” likely referring to such perpetrators as actor Kevin Spacey and comedian Louis C.K., but there are dozens more.

“And I get there should be levels of response. But I understand why that disappearing happens, because there’s a JFK quote that I like — and I cite quite a fair amount on this show — and it’s that those who make peaceful revolution impossible make violent revolution inevitable. And for so long, for women in the workplace, there was no change. No justice for the abused. So, we shouldn’t be surprised that when the change comes, it comes radically. This war is just a natural backlash to all that silence.

“So, I don’t know what’s going to happen but I do believe in accountability. And not just for politicians you disagree with.”

Despite his obvious respect for Moonves, who has been with CBS since 1995 and whom Colbert calls “my guy,” Colbert suggested that CBS’ top executive should be held accountable if accusations of his alleged behaviour are proven.

“Everybody believes in accountability until it’s their guy – and make no mistake, Les Moonves is my guy. He hired me to sit in this chair. He stood behind this show while we struggled to find our voice. He gave us the time and the resources to succeed and he has stood by us when people were mad at me. And I like working for him.

“Accountability is meaningless unless it’s for everybody – whether it’s the leader of a network or the leader of the free world,” Colbert stated to conclude the segment.

Moonves’ troubles began when journalist Ronan Farrow published a report in The New Yorker on July 27 accusing the executive of inappropriate behaviour, citing accounts by actress Illeana Douglas, writer Janet Jones, producer Christine Peters, writer Dinah Kirgo and two other unidentified complainants.

Douglas told The New Yorker that in 1996 she was working on the pilot for the CBS TV series Queens when Moonves allegedly held her down on a couch and kissed her without her consent during a meeting. Douglas maintains that Moonves eventually fired her from the program due to the rejection of his advances.

In a statement to the New Yorker, Moonves acknowledged that he had regretfully participated in some prior transgressions.

“Throughout my time at CBS, we have promoted a culture of respect and opportunity for all employees, and have consistently found success elevating women to top executive positions across our company,“ Moonves stated.

“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.”

CBS has since retained attorneys Betsy Plevan and Nancy Kestenbaum to hold two independent investigations into the allegations against Moonves.

On July 30, the CBS board of directors decided to keep Moonves in place as Chairman-CEO, although the USC School of Cinematic Arts suspended him from their Board of Councillors.

Ronan Farrow, the author of the New Yorker feature, is best known as the journalist who helped launch the #MeToo Movement in late 2017 with a series of articles in magazine that helped uncover the Harvey Weinstein sexual abuse allegations. For his work, The New Yorker shared the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service with The New York Times. He is the son of actress Mia Farrow and actor/director Woody Allen.

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Stephen Colbert’s full transcript:

Before the break, I was over there (pointing to the floor) and made a few jokes about my boss being in trouble. Here’s the thing: we’re coming up on one year of general awareness of the #MeToo Movement and I think that milestone is worth celebrating, but it’s hard to think of an appropriate anniversary gift when the entire Amazon wish list is just ‘Stop it.’ By the way, women who wanted to ‘stop it’ also searched for ‘Justice.’

And women over the past year have felt empowered to tell their stories in the way they haven’t before, which is an objectively good thing, because – and it’s strange to have to say this – powerful men taking sexual advantage of relatively powerless employees, are wrong. We know it’s wrong now and we knew it was wrong then.  And how do we know we knew it was wrong then? Because we know these men tried to keep the stories from coming out back then.

I don’t remember any ads in Variety saying, ‘Congratulations to me on all the butt I’m groping.’ That said, and this is obviously naïve on a certain level, the revelations and accusations of the past year, just in the entertainment industry have been shocking. To me.

To many of the women I know, it has brought a welcome sense of relief that something is finally happening.

Now, as a middle-aged guy, with some power in the entertainment industry, I may not be the ideal person to address this kind of systemic abuse. Who am I to judge? I’m a Catholic – still – and when I go to confession, I have things to confess. First, that I don’t go to confession – and that I just lied to you for a bit.

But this weekend, some people asked me – probably because I work here – what do you think is going to happen. I don’t know. I don’t know who does know.  In a situation like this, I’d normally call Les (Moonves.)

But over the last year, there’s been a lot of discussion over whether the disappearing of the accused from public life is the right thing to do.

And I get there should be levels of response. But I understand why that disappearing happens, because there’s a JFK quote that I like and I cite quite a fair amount on this show, and it’s that those who make peaceful revolution impossible make violent revolution inevitable.

And for so long, for women in the workplace, there was no change. No justice for the abused. So, we shouldn’t be surprised that when the change comes, it comes radically. This war is just a natural backlash to all that silence.

So, I don’t know what’s going to happen but I do believe in accountability. And not just for politicians you disagree with.

Everybody believes in accountability until it’s their guy – and make no mistake, Les Moonves is my guy. He hired me to sit in this chair. He stood behind this show while we struggled to find our voice. He gave us the time and the resources to succeed and he has stood by us when people were mad at me. And I like working for him.

But accountability is meaningless unless it’s for everybody – whether it’s the leader of a network or the leader of the free world.”

 

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