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July 30, 2018

Rowan Farrow Vanity Fair Expose: CBS Promoted Culture of Sexual Harassment

I had an idea to say "all this story is missing is Matt Lauer's rape-button."

But then I kept reading. The Rape Button is in fact there. Allegedly.

Ileana Douglas had a $300,000 holding deal with CBS, which means something like CBS had exclusive TV rights to her services, and CBS would try to build a TV show around her. That TV show turned out to be "Queens." About the NYC borough, not Westminster.

In March, 1997, shortly before production of the pilot episode began, Moonves called Douglas's manager, Melissa Prophet, and told her that he was concerned about Douglas's attitude during a reading with her co-star, Penelope Ann Miller. Prophet relayed the concern to Douglas, who was surprised and confused: the reading, in front of a group of CBS executives, had elicited uproarious laughter. Moonves, she said, had taken her by the shoulders and congratulated her. Moonves had told Prophet that he wanted to meet with Douglas, alone, to insure that they were creatively aligned. (Prophet told me that she did not recall the conversation or setting up the meeting.) By then, Douglas had worked closely with Moonves for months. "He seemed more than just my boss," she told me. "He was very much like a father figure."

When Douglas met with Moonves at his office, she began to raise concerns about the "Queens" script, but Moonves, she recalled, cut her off. "He interrupts me to ask me am I single," she said. Douglas, whose nearly decade-long relationship with Scorsese was coming to an end, was caught off guard. "I didn't know what to say at that point," she told me. "I was, like, 'I'm single, yes, no, maybe.'" She began talking about the script, but Moonves interjected, asking to kiss her. According to Douglas, he said that they didn't have to tell her manager: "It'll just be between you and me. Come on, you’re not some nubile virgin."

As Douglas attempted to turn the focus back to work, Moonves, she said, grabbed her. "In a millisecond, he's got one arm over me, pinning me," she said. Moonves was "violently kissing" her, holding her down on the couch with her arms above her head. "What it feels like to have someone hold you down—you can’t breathe, you can’t move," she said. "The physicality of it was horrendous." She recalled lying limp and unresponsive beneath him. "You sort of black out," she told me. "You think, How long is this going to go on? I was just looking at this nice picture of his family and his kids. I couldn't get him off me." She said it was only when Moonves, aroused, pulled up her skirt and began to thrust against her that her fear overcame her paralysis. She told herself that she had to do something to stop him. "At that point, you’re a trapped animal," she told me. "Your life is flashing before your eyes."

Moonves, in what Douglas assumed was an effort to be seductive, paused and asked, "So, what do you think?" Douglas told me, "My decision was to get out of it by joking my way out, so he feels flattered." Thinking that reminding Moonves that he was her boss might discourage him, she told him, "Yes, for the head of a network you're some good kisser." Moonves frowned and got up. She scrambled to find her briefcase. "Well, this has been great. Thanks," she recalled saying, moving toward the door. "I've got to go now."

Moonves, she said, followed her to the door and blocked her path. He backed her up to the wall, pressing against her, with his face close to hers. "It was physically scary," Douglas told me. "He says, 'We're going to keep this between you and me, right?'" Attempting to put him off with a joke, she replied, "No, sir, we won't tell anyone that you’re a good kisser." Moonves released her and, without looking at her, walked away. "It was so invasive," she said of the threatening encounter. "It has stayed with me the rest of my life, that terror."


In her car, Douglas said, "I lost it. I felt sick." Prophet, her manager, called and, as Douglas worked up the nerve to tell her what had happened, Prophet said that she had just got off the phone with Moonves. He’d said that he and Douglas had a great meeting and "had a lot of fun." Douglas told me, "I thought, Oh, my God, he's covered his tracks.” In that moment, she said, "I decided, just bury it."

After that, she says, she would become distracted when Moonves would show up at her rehearsals. She says he eyed her "warily."

After the second rehearsal, Moonves took Douglas aside. "'What the fuck do you think you’re doing out there? You’re not even trying,'" Douglas recalled Moonves saying. She took it as a reference to her failure to comply with his advances and to maintain her composure afterward. Douglas told me that she had "played by all the rules, I didn't say anything, and now he was berating me." On set, she struggled to keep her comedic timing, and cried in front of other cast members.

Several days into rehearsals, Moonves called Douglas at home. "It was, you know, 'You make me fucking sick. You are not funny,'" she recalled. Moonves told her that she wouldn’t "get a fucking dime" of the money she was owed, and that she would "never work at this network again." (In a statement, CBS said that Moonves acknowledges trying to kiss Douglas, but that "he denies any characterization of 'sexual assault,' intimidation, or retaliatory action," including berating her on set and personally firing her from "Queens.")

Not only did CBS fire her, but then, in rapid succession, her own manager and agent fired her as well.

Later, CBS would settle with her (half of the contract value, plus a new $250,000 payment for a miniseries), but only after her lawyer told a CBS representative something like, "Go ask Les Moonves what happened up in that room."

CBS denies this was a payment for, or acknowledgement of, the alleged incident.

Also later, her agency (C.A.A.) decided to start representing her again.

While the manager and agent deny it, this does raise suspicions that they were acting under threat by Les Moonves to cut Douglas loose or else see other talent they represented get the cold shoulder from CBS.

About the Rape Button: Janet Jones was a writer looking for a gig at CBS. At a privat pitch meeting, Jones says, Moonves jumped on her.

When Jones arrived, many employees were leaving for the day, but Moonves's assistant was there.


Moonves surprised her by asking if she wanted a glass of wine. She declined, sat down on the couch, and began pitching her screenplay. Suddenly, Jones told me, "he came around the corner of the table and threw himself on top of me. It was very fast." Moonves, she said, began trying to kiss her. Jones said that she struggled, and then shoved Moonves away hard, yelling, "What do you think you’re doing?"
Moonves, appearing startled, got up. "'Well, I was hitting on you. I wanted a kiss,'" she recalled him saying. Jones began to leave. "He said, 'Oh, come on, it’s nothing,' "she said. "'Calm down, don’t be so excited.'"

When Jones got to the door, it was locked. She was terrified. "If you don't open this door," she told him, "I am going to scream so loud and so long that everyone on the lot is going to come over." She remembered Moonves walking to his desk or to a nearby bureau to unlock the door, rather than doing so directly. She fled, noticing on her way out that the assistant had left. "That's when I got really upset," she told me. "I just thought, Oh, my God. This wasn't like a little momentary boo-boo. It was this well-thought-out thing."

The article also claims that CBS had a permissive attitude towards higher-ranking older men harassing lower-ranking younger women, and did little in the way of discipline, and routinely promoted those accused of harassment.

One begins to suspect that the whole #MaleFeminist thing is just a fascade to cover up for sex crimes, or near-sex-crimes.

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posted by Ace of Spades at 04:34 PM

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