Less than 24 hours after Leslie Moonves from his position as CEO of CBS Corp. was removed amid sexual intimidation and assault attacks, CBS Entertainment President Kelly Kahl held a staff meeting to address the transition.
Kahl, head of all entertainment programs for the CBS Television Network, reported to the executives on Monday that he would hold a meeting that day to discuss the departure of Moonves. Kahl wanted, according to an insider of the network, to reassure staff members. At that meeting on Monday, he said, "It will be fine, the sun has risen today and the sun is rising tomorrow," adding that he had already spoken to the new interim CEO, Joseph R. Ianniello.
The work culture at CBS has been under fire since Leslie Moonves' allegations against sexual harassment have been published in two recent New Yorker articles, and Kahl told the attendees – a group of network development staff, current programming, public relations, casting and marketing – " If you see something, say something. " He encouraged everyone with care in the workplace to transfer them to human resources or senior management. When the floor was opened for questions, only one was asked.
Thom Sherman, who joined the network in 2017 as the best program leader under Kahl, also spoke. "This is really difficult," Sherman said, noting that he had worked with Moonves for a number of years in the previous function of Sherman as a development leader at the CW, a joint venture between CBS and Warner Bros.
Kahl held a second meeting to discuss the transition from Moonves on Tuesday, using a regularly scheduled meeting of current programming as a forum for employees who had not been home on Monday for the Rosh Hashanah holiday. David Stapf, chairman of CBS Television Studios, who was absent on Monday for his holiday, held a similar meeting with his team on Tuesday. Both execs, sources close to them, tried to reassure their staff amid the consequences of the New Yorker articles and emphasized a forward-looking message.
The attitude of high-level managers in these meetings was described by a participant as "broken hearts". At no meeting did a female manager speak, and nobody from staff attended the meeting with the network staff. There has also been no discussion at staff meetings about any policy changes regarding workplace intimidation or communication about how to connect with human resources.
Several CBS insiders contradict Variety described an atmosphere in the company in recent days, ranging from business as usual to resignation. "This is not an ordinary course of events," said an insider, noting that during meetings the managers need to stay focused at a critical time of the year – the launch of the autumn broadcast season is only two weeks away – but they have no some action undertaken in-depth discussion on workplace culture.
Another source allowed Kahl, who went through the corridors to speak with staff members after the first article in New Yorker was published in August, for visible leadership on the network amid the uncertainty surrounding Moonves. During the Television Critics Association summer tour last month, Kahl drew positive reviews for questions about the field a few days after the first allegations against Moonves. In the weeks following the publication of the first article in New Yorker, Moonves made no attempt to involve employees in the allegations against him or the controversy caused by them and to express widespread internal criticism.
Another insider from the CBS noted that the second article in New Yorker – in which accusations were even more serious than the first – was a disturbing surprise, but that staff members who had been reading speculations about Moonves' departure in the press last week, were going to anticipate that the end was near for the old director. The person added: "At least this gives it a solution."