Stephen Colbert got right to it Monday night, directly addressing the controversy at his very own network.
Six weeks ago, the New Yorker published allegations of sexual harassment and intimidation against CBS chief executive Leslie Moonves. Then on Sunday night, Moonves resigned after the outlet published another article outlining even more allegations, including claims of sexual assault.
Colbert opened up Monday’s “Late Show” episode by explaining to the audience that “you may have heard, the head of this network, Leslie Moonves, was forced to step down yesterday.”
“This came after a second Ronan Farrow exposé featured more women accusing him of sexual harassment and assault,” Colbert continued. “It’s never a good sign when you’re the subject of a Ronan Farrow double-dip.”
The latest story, published on the New Yorker’s website on Sunday, detailed allegations from women who said Moonves forced oral sex, exposed himself and used violence. One woman, television executive Phyllis Golden-Gottlieb, said she filed a criminal complaint with police about incidents dating to the 1980s.
In a statement Sunday, Moonves said “untrue allegations from decades ago are now being made against me that are not consistent with who I am.”
And according to a CBS statement, Moonves and the company would be making a $20 million donation, taken from Moonves’s severance, “to one or more organizations that support the #MeToo movement and equality for women in the workplace.” (The former CEO is still expected to collect millions as part of a settlement with the company’s board.)
On Monday night, Colbert also referenced some “disturbing allegations” in the article, reading one aloud.
“In total, Moonves is accused of harassing or assaulting 13 women,” Colbert said during his monologue. “And that’s not even counting the thousands of innocent Americans who’ve walked past this actual poster for ‘Bull,’ ” a CBS drama.
The poster reads: “He’ll get you off.”
“Anyway, the article is extremely disturbing, and I’m not surprised that that’s it,” Colbert said. “Les Moonves is gone — for at least nine months, until he does a set at the Comedy Cellar,” a reference to the 15-minute set that Louis C.K. performed less than a year after admitting to sexual misconduct.
That was all after Monday’s episode began with a fake promo: “Tonight’s episode of ‘Undercover Boss’ starring Les Moonves will not be shown. It was accidentally sealed into a stainless-steel container and inadvertently fired into the heart of the sun. We regret the error.”
Earlier in the day, other CBS personalities directly addressed the former chief executive and his resignation.
“CBS This Morning” host Norah O’Donnell said that while her former boss “always treated me fairly and with respect,” she wanted to comment because “there is no excuse for this alleged behavior.”
“It is systematic, and it is pervasive in our culture. And this I know is true, to the core of my being: Women cannot achieve equality in the workplace or society until there is a reckoning and a taking of responsibility.”
She continued: “I’m really proud to work here at CBS News. This has hurt morale, but there are some really, really good people that come to work every single day. As a journalist, I’m confident that the truth is going to come out.”
The first New Yorker article about Moonves, which included accusations of harassment and intimidation from six women, triggered calls from activists, and the company hired outside law firms to conduct an investigation.
Back then, Colbert also cracked some jokes about the matter before delivering a serious monologue about accountability in the #MeToo era.
“I do believe in accountability — and not just for politicians you disagree with,” Colbert said in July. “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 were struggling 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.”
Colbert continued: “But accountability is meaningless unless it’s for everybody. Whether it’s the leader of the network or the leader of the free world.”