US broadcaster CBS has promised $US20 million ($27.9 million) to organisations dedicated to eliminating workplace sexual harassment as the network tries to recover from a scandal that claimed its top executive.
- The donated money was taken from sacked CBS executive Les Moonves’s severance payout
- Mr Moonves faces 12 separate sexual misconduct allegations
- The network confirmed a $13.2 million settlement with actress Eliza Dushku
The announcement comes as the network’s crisis deepens, with details emerging from an ongoing investigation into sacked chair and chief executive Les Moonves’s conduct.
Mr Moonves was ousted in September after the New Yorker published allegations from 12 women who said he subjected them to mistreatment that included forced oral sex, groping and retaliation if they resisted.
He has denied having any non-consensual sexual relationships.
In the latest revelation plaguing the network, CBS confirmed it reached a $13.2 million confidential settlement with actress Eliza Dushku last year.
Dushku said she was written off the show Bull in March 2017 after complaining about on-set sexual comments from star Michael Weatherly.
Weatherly, who appeared on the CBS series NCIS for 13 years before Bull began in 2016, said he apologised to Dushku after she confronted him.
Some women’s rights activists called on CBS to fire Weatherly.
In a September interview, Weatherly said his long history with CBS made it difficult to comment on Mr Moonves’s scandal.
“Not to get into any of the ifs, ands or buts about what is right or wrong and where it comes from,” Weatherly said.
“Professionally I owe a great part of my career to the decision-making of the higher-ups at the company. It’s a complicated place to be.”
Two other major figures at CBS have lost their jobs in the past year over misconduct allegations — 60 Minutes top executive Jeff Fager and news anchor Charlie Rose.
Groups say funds don’t ‘absolve bad behaviour’
The funds to be paid to the 18 women’s rights groups are being deducted from severance owed to Mr Moonves, who the network has previously said would have a say about which groups receive money.
But whether Mr Moonves, who was one of the television industry’s most powerful executives, receives the remaining $167 million of his payout hinges on the investigation, which is being conducted by two law firms.
CBS has said Mr Moonves would not be entitled to the severance if its board of directors determines he was fired for cause.
It also said the donation would go toward helping expand their work and “ties into the company’s ongoing commitment to strengthening its own workplace culture”.
The rights organisations issued a joint statement praising the donations as a first step while calling on CBS to disclose the results of its investigation and the company’s efforts to rectify practices that may have enabled misconduct.
“We thank CBS for these donations,” the statement said.
“We also recognise these funds are not a panacea, nor do they erase or absolve decades of bad behaviour.”
Among the recipients are Catalyst, a 56-year-old organisation dedicated to empowering women in the workplace, Time’s Up, a Hollywood-based group promoting gender equity in the workplace, and The New York Women’s Foundation.
Other groups that have emerged as prominent voices since the downfall of Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, which triggered an avalanche of sexual misconduct allegations against powerful men across several industries, are also set to benefit.
Time’s Up Entertainment said it would use its $696,200 to launch an initiative to increase the presence of people of colour and of different social backgrounds in the entertainment industry’s producing and executive ranks.
Press Forward said it would use its funding to accelerate its programs to develop innovative sexual-harassment training and a study on the state of women in America’s newsrooms.
Co-founder Carolyn McGourty Supple said the group had been “very encouraged” by the willingness of CBS News’s leadership “to engage with us”.
“We have faith that we will work side by side to make sure our newsrooms are places where journalists do their best work,” Ms McGourty Supple said.