CBS weighs Moonves suspension over assault claims: report

San Francisco (AFP) –


CBS directors are weighing whether chairman and chief executive Leslie Moonves should step aside as the US television network investigates claims he sexually harassed women, The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday.

The CBS board is expected to choose a special committee that would oversee the probe, which will include an examination of the company's workplace culture, people familiar with the matter told the Journal. Board members meet via conference call on Monday.

The special committee is set to choose a law firm to lead the probe by mid-week, and determine whether Moonves should be suspended during the investigation, according to the Journal.

"I think the board realizes as a whole that this is a very, very, very serious situation," a person familiar with the matter told the newspaper.

"While there is an important Les piece to this, really, more important to the company as a whole is that this raises serious issues with regard to culture and harassment throughout the company."

A New Yorker article published Friday recounted accounts by six women who had professional dealings with Moonves and said he sexually harassed them between the 1980s and late 2000s.

Four described forcible touching or kissing during business meetings, and two said Moonves physically intimidated them or threatened to derail their careers, The New Yorker's Ronan Farrow reported.

Moonves expressed regret for any behavior that may have made women "uncomfortable," but insisted he had not retaliated to "harm or hinder anyone's career."

The revelations come amid a legal battle for control of the US television giant -- between the Redstone family, which controls CBS, and the board, chaired by Moonves.

Shari Redstone is a major shareholder of both CBS and Viacom, and is seeking to merge the two companies. Moonves opposes the deal.