On Monday, the CBS board broke its weekend-length silence about Les Moonves, the embattled CEO accused of forcibly touching or kissing at least six female employees during business meetings between the 1980s and late-aughts. After its regular weekly meeting, the CBS board announced it is “in the process of selecting outside counsel to conduct an independent investigation.” In the meantime, Moonves will retain his position.
The list of people this news does not sit well with is vast and varied, and as of Monday night, it also includes CBS employee Stephen Colbert.
“I heard there was an article about CBS chairman and Man I Hope Is Not Watching My Show Tonight, Les Moonves,” Colbert said, kicking off his first monologue of the week. He then offered a funny recap of how he received the unfortunate news. However, the host clearly recognized that this touchy subject matter needed more nuance than it would receive if sandwiched in between Rudy Giuliani jokes, so he teased a desk piece later in the show.
Looming over Monday’s announcement about Moonves was the recent news that AMC is going to continue its business relationship with Chris Hardwick, following an internal investigation, and that James Franco will remain on HBO’s The Deuce. Whether either man, both of whom were accused of sexual misconduct earlier this year, should have lost these jobs is beyond the scope of this post. The fact that they did not lose those jobs, though, serves as an unmistakable counterpoint to the narrative that #MeToo is a witch hunt and no man is safe. Some men are obviously safe!
While seated at his desk, Colbert makes a compelling case for why men like his own boss are justifiably imperiled. He compares his ongoing surprise at all the boldface names who have been accused, with women’s ongoing relief that the shroud covering up this behavior is finally being lifted. He also deftly sums up one of the hardest parts of witnessing this movement in American life from the sidelines: “Everybody believes in accountability until it’s their guy, and believe me: Les Moonves is my guy.”
Colbert goes on for a while explaining all that Moonves has done for him personally, and for Late Show with Stephen Colbert as an institution, before dropping the hammer: “Accountability is meaningless unless it’s for everybody–whether it’s the leader of a network or the leader of the free world.”
Throughout the monologue and the desk piece, Colbert has a running bit making little references to how the show might be pulled off the air at any second for what he’s saying. It gets a chuckle each time, and the reason it works is that speaking out when you have money on the line is, indeed, courageous. The stars of CBS can make more of an impact speaking out from their highly valued perch within the network than any number of semi-anonymous Twitterers and Change.org petition-signers. If more CBS stars follow Colbert’s example, whatever the results of the investigation, the disgraced CEO’s days at the network would be numbered.
Have a look below at the full video of Colbert’s segment on Moonves.