A newly unveiled allegation of sexual assault could put Les Moonves’ $120 million severance from CBS in jeopardy, according to a stunning new report in the New York Times.
Moonves' downfall began with an August 2018 New Yorker story that detailed allegations of sexual assault from six women — revelations that ultimately cost him his job as a high-level executive at CBS.
But according to the Times, Moonves was concerned about one woman, in particular, who wasn’t part of the New Yorker’s report. Moonves was so troubled by the possibility of the actress Bobbie Phillips going public that he even coordinated with her agent, Marv Dauer, to placate her into silence by casting her on CBS shows well after the #MeToo movement began.
“If Bobbie talks, I’m finished,” Moonves said earlier this year, according to Dauer, who represented Phillips as an agent at the time of the incident.
“I think I’ll be OK,” Moonves said in another text exchange obtained by the Times. “But if Bobbie talks, I’m done.”
Phillips told the Times she was assaulted by Moonves when she visited the Warner Bros. studio in March of 1995 for a casting meeting. Moonves, who was married with three kids at the time, allegedly exposed his penis to her and said, “Look at how hard you make me.”
She says the exec then told her, “Be my girlfriend and I’ll put you on any show,” before pushing her down and forcing his penis into her mouth. Shortly thereafter, according to Phillips, Moonves went to his desk to take a call and she grabbed a decorative baseball bat that was propped up in his office to use in defense.
“All I could think,” she said to the Times, “was that I wanted to use the baseball bat to knock his head off.”
Moonves has since claimed that the sexual encounter was consensual.
But he was worried enough to take action in November 2017, when the New York Times followed up on a tip that Moonves had his own looming #MeToo scandal.
During that time, the Times repeatedly contacted Dauer, who immediately alerted Moonves by email, saying, “Leslie — it’s very important you call me.”
The two began corresponding by text message, according to the Times, which reviewed the messages. The two men spent close to a year discussing a role for Phillips suitable enough to keep her quiet. After an aborted attempt to offer Phillips a guest role on a new show, Moonves was revealed as a serial harasser, prompting Phillips to file suit.
The problem for Moonves now is that he deleted text messages between himself and Dauer, which could give CBS “cause” to fire him for not cooperating in an investigation. According to the Times, Moonves requested Dauer delete the messages, though he did not. Moonves has denied trying to cover up the cover-up.
Hanging in the balance is Moonves’ $120 million payment, which he will not receive if CBS finds it had cause to fire him.
For her part, Phillips is seeking $15 million from Moonves and CBS for causing her emotional distress and defaming her by claiming the encounter at Warner Bros. was “consensual.”
“I don’t know how I got in the middle of this,” Dauer, who is no longer her agent, told the New York Times. “All I know is that I’m a key witness with $120 million at stake. I can’t even imagine a sum of money like that.”
Cover image: Leslie Moonves, president and chief executive officer of CBS Corp., varrives for the Allen & Co. Media and Technology Conference in Sun Valley, Idaho, U.S., on Tuesday, July 10, 2018. The 35th annual Allen & Co. conference gathers many of America's wealthiest and most powerful people in media, technology, and sports. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images