A little over a week after the New Yorker published an article alleging CBS CEO Leslie Moonves sexually harassed or assaulted at least six women, CBS Entertainment boss Kelly Kahl addressed the current climate of the company at the Television Critics Association summer press tour.
"Obviously, this has been a tough week," Kahl said in his opening remarks to reporters. "I've had many female colleagues come to me this week who've been saddened by what they've read about our company. They said it does not represent their experience at CBS. ... I'm not saying we're perfect — no large company is — and there's always room for improvement. But a lot of us have been here a long time precisely because CBS Entertainment is such a fulfilling place to work."
However, the allegations against Moonves come after a series of public accusations against other CBS employees: The Star Trek: Discovery showrunners were fired for abusive behavior; Wisdom of the Crowd star Jeremy Piven was accused of sexual misconduct; and NCIS: New Orleans' former showrunner Brad Kern was demoted to consulting producer after news broke of multiple HR investigations in the wake of accusations of sexual harassment and making racially insensitive remarks. (CBS still opted to sign a new deal with Kern this spring despite the allegations against him.)
While Kahl said he wasn't able to discuss the ongoing investigation into Moonves, he did address the accusations against Kern, who is currently on suspension while CBS conducts its third investigation into the producer.
"CBS Studios investigated Brad Kern in 2016. Action was taken after that investigation, and there have been no complaints since. I'm troubled and frustrated that reports continue to come out in the press and because of that we've opened up another investigation with outside counsel," Kahl said. "The goal of any investigation, internal or external, is to get to the truth, and I believe they will get to the truth."
When pressed about whether CBS needs to undergo a drastic culture shift in response to the seemingly toxic environment, Kahl said the scandals don't reflect the overall CBS culture.
"We take workplace safety very seriously. I think if you look up and down all of CBS you'll find a very safe environment," he said. "We have over 40 shows in production and the vast majority of those shows are excellent sets. ... Any time any allegation comes up on any of our shows, it is investigated immediately. There's no wiggle room there. Any complaint, we have a procedure we follow. It goes to HR and sometimes to outside counsel if necessary. While maybe we are not perfect, we take everything seriously. At CBS or any other workplace — on a set, in the halls — everyone deserves a safe workplace."
Kahl eventually found himself defending CBS' HR department when he was pressed about whether or not he understood why women who had experienced problematic behavior in the workplace might feel uncomfortable going to an organization whose first priority is to protect the company.
"I think our HR department does a great job. I don't think anybody out here would want them looking into you if they chose to investigate," he said. "They do a very thorough job. And look, in cases where there's a question, we've retained outside firms."
(Full disclosure: TV Guide is owned by CBS.)