Part of what makes the #MeToo movement so powerful is its breadth in effectiveness. Not only are more perpetrators of sexual harassment being held accountable for their actions, but everyone who had benefitted from those perpetrators are beginning to consider their own relationships with abusers. Stephen Colbert called for accountability following the Les Moonves allegations on Monday night's episode of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, and he led by example by examining his own relationship with CBS Chairman, Les Moonves.
Colbert's segment about the #MeToo movement and Moonves came just a few days after a report in the New Yorker detailed allegations that CBS Corporation's chairman and C.E.O., Leslie Moonves, harassed and intimidated at least six women throughout his long career. In response, Moonves told New Yorker reporter Ronan Farrow, "I recognize that there were times decades ago when I may have made some women uncomfortable by making advances. Those were mistakes, and I regret them immensely. But I always understood and respected — and abided by the principle — that ‘no’ means ‘no,’ and I have never misused my position to harm or hinder anyone’s career."
Colbert, in an effort not to ignore the elephant in the room, mentioned Moonves at the beginning of his monologue on Monday night, jokingly calling the CBS Chairman the "man I hope isn't watching tonight's monologue." And he later returned to the topic during an entire #MeToo segment in his July 30 show.
While speaking of the recent news, Colbert addressed the fact that he doesn't exactly make the best spokesperson for the #MeToo movement. He said, "As a middle aged guy with some power in the entertainment industry, I may not be the ideal person to address this kind of systemic abuse." It's a refreshing confession to hear from a powerful man who certainly has benefitted from an alleged abuser's authority. And Colbert is more than aware of this complex relationship.
While Colbert admitted his own favorable bias toward Moonves — "I liked working for him," the late night host said — he also showcased how someone can serve as an ally to victims of sexual harassment and misconduct. First, Colbert made sure to state the obvious, "It's strange to have to say this: powerful men taking sexual advantage of relatively powerless employees are wrong. We know it's wrong now and we knew it was wrong then."
Colbert went on, telling the audience that as a prominent member of the CBS network, he has been asked what will happen to Moonves and the organization in the wake of these allegations. "I don't know what's gonna happen but I do believe in accountability... 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," Colbert said, before listing even more ways that Moonves helped CBS's The Late Show. "But accountability is meaningless unless it's for everybody, whether it's the leader of a network or the leader of the free world," Colbert said.
Colbert's call for accountability on the very network Moonves runs is surprising, to say the least, especially as the CBS Board has decided to keep Moonves working while they conduct an independent investigation into the allegations. Whether or not it will have any effect remains to be seen.
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673) or visit online.rainn.org.