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USC Cinematic Arts suspends CBS' Moonves from its board; Annenberg School removes his name from student newsroom

USC Cinematic Arts suspends CBS' Moonves from its board; Annenberg School removes his name from student newsroom
Julie Chen and Leslie Moonves, shown at a conference in Idaho last month, had a high-tech news lab at USC named for them. (Drew Angerer / Getty Images)

USC School of Cinematic Arts on Wednesday suspended embattled CBS Chief Executive Leslie Moonves from the school’s board shortly after the university’s communications school said it was temporarily removing Moonves’ name from its cutting-edge student newsroom.

“The school takes the recent allegations very seriously and will discuss further action when the board convenes in October,” USC School of Cinematic Arts said in a statement.

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The USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism’s high-tech news lab has been called the Julie Chen / Leslie Moonves CBS Media Center since it opened in 2015. USC Annenberg said that Moonves, who is facing sexual harassment allegations, and his wife, Chen, who is the host of the popular CBS daytime show “The Talk,” had requested the move. Chen is an alumna of the journalism school.

“In recognition of the sensitivities surrounding recent allegations against Mr. Moonves, he and Ms. Chen have requested that USC Annenberg temporarily suspend use of the media center’s name until the investigation concludes,” USC Annenberg said in a statement.

Other scandals have forced USC to disentangle itself from relationships with Hollywood figures in the wake of the #MeToo movement. In October, the School of Cinematic Arts rejected a $5-million pledge from disgraced mogul Harvey Weinstein, who has faced accusations of sexual assault by dozens of women. Weinstein has denied the allegations.

In December, the school removed Bryan Singer’s name from a campus building after the “X-Men” director and USC alumnus was accused in a lawsuit of sexually assaulting a 17-year-old boy at a party more than a decade ago. Singer has denied the allegations.

Los Angeles County prosecutors on Tuesday said they had declined to press charges against Moonves after a woman came forward late last year and accused the television executive of forcing her to participate in sex acts in 1986 and 1988. The statute of limitations had expired, so the case was dropped.

On Friday, the New Yorker published a report alleging that Moonves sexually harassed six women dating back more than a decade. The most high-profile was actress Illeana Douglas, 53, who has appeared in HBO's “Six Feet Under” and such films as "Goodfellas." She alleged that Moonves pinned her on a couch and began "violently kissing her" during a meeting in his office in 1997 when she was cast in a network pilot. She lost her job on the pilot, which was never picked up. She said Moonves was so infuriated at her that he told her she would "never work at this network again." Douglas later had other roles on CBS shows.

CBS said that Moonves said he tried to kiss the actress, but denied assaulting her.

Moonves has acknowledged mistakes, saying that he "may have made some women uncomfortable by making advances." But he added, "I have never misused my position to harm or hinder anyone's career."

On Monday, CBS’ board of directors said it would hire an outside law firm to investigate the allegations contained in the New Yorker report.

CBS has been trying to contain fallout from the allegations, which threaten the tenure of Moonves, who has run CBS Corp. since 2006 and has led the broadcast network since 1995. CBS’ stock on Wednesday fell 12 cents, or less than a percent, to $52.55.

USC has been embroiled in scandals of its own. Last year, The Times reported that the university kept a hard-partying doctor in charge of its medical school, and operating on patients, despite his personal issues. The university ultimately severed ties with Dr. Carmen Puliafito, who has since lost his medical license.

During the medical license hearing in July, Puliafito and his attorney said the doctor suffered from bipolar disorder and a “hypomanic” state that poisoned his judgment.

Then, in May, The Times reported that a gynecologist who had been treating USC patients for three decades was accused of sexually assaulting scores of women. The university paid a settlement to the gynecologist, Dr. George Tyndall, to get him to leave the university. Female patients were not informed of the alleged misconduct surrounding that doctor, which included claims that he photographed patients’ genitals and touched women inappropriately during pelvic exams.

Tyndall has denied the allegations.

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The most recent controversy sparked widespread outrage on campus and among donors, and there were demands that the university president, Max Nikias, must go. The embattled president said in May that he would step down.

Other groups also have distanced themselves from Moonves. Bucknell University has removed some references on its website to alumnus Moonves in the wake of the allegations. The Commission on Eliminating Sexual Harassment and Advancing Equality in the Workplace also said that Moonves had recused himself as one of its commissioners, according to Deadline.

2:35 p.m.: This article was updated with information about USC’s actions regarding Harvey Weinstein and Bryan Singer.

1:50 p.m.: This article was updated with information about USC School of Cinematic Arts suspending Moonves and CBS’ stock performance.

This article was first published at 11:10 a.m.

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