Les Moonves’ wife, Julie Chen, signed off ‘Big Brother’ Thursday night as ‘Julie Chen Moonves.’
CBS “Big Brother” host Julie Chen extended a show of solidarity to her embattled husband, Les Moonves, at the close of Thursday’s show.
“I’m Julie Chen Moonves. Goodnight,” Chen said. She had never previously used Moonves’ surname on the show, according to multiple reports.
Moonves, who stepped down Sunday after a second Ronan Farrow exposé surfaced additional allegations of sexual harassment, assault and retaliation, has received consistent support from his wife of nearly 14 years. After the former CBS chairman’s initial statement defending himself last month, for example, Chen backed him publicly: “Leslie is a good man and a loving father, devoted husband and inspiring corporate leader. He has always been a kind, decent and moral human being,” she wrote in a statement posted to Twitter. “I fully support my husband and stand behind him and his statement.”
— Dalton Ross (@DaltonRoss) September 14, 2018
Chen joins several others in her industry who’ve weighed in on accusations against friends, colleagues or loved ones. Rose McGowan, for example, urged her fellow #MeToo leader Asia Argento to “do the right thing” last month in a statement distancing herself from the Italian actress accused of sexual assault. And “Late Show” host Stephen Colbert called for “accountability” for Moonves, then his boss at CBS.
Meanwhile, “House of Cards” star Robin Wright broke her silence in July on sexual misconduct allegations against her former co-star Kevin Spacey — telling the “Today” show in an interview that they were mere “coworkers” with a good on-set relationship. After NBC axed Matt Lauer in November over allegations of “inappropriate sexual behavior,” his colleagues Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb were left to process the news on air. Earlier, Sarah Silverman broke her silence on Louis C.K., her friend of 25 years who’d copped to having masturbated in front of women without their consent.
“I love Louis, but Louis did these things. Both of those statements are true,” she said on her Hulu talk show, “I Love You, America.” “So I just keep asking myself: Can you love someone who did bad things?”
Each of the prominent people accused in recent months of making unwanted sexual advances — Weinstein, journalist Mark Halperin, ex-prez George H.W. Bush and Minnesota Sen. Al Franken, to scratch the surface — has family and friends no doubt wrestling with similar pain, defiance and doubt. You may also find yourself in such a position. So what do you do?
“This is really hard stuff,” said Vaile Wright, a licensed psychologist at the American Psychological Association who has researched sexual harassment and sexual violence extensively. “These are important conversations to have, and part of why we don’t have these conversations is that they’re so hard and uncomfortable.”
Here’s expert advice from Wright and Debra Borys, a Los Angeles-based psychologist and sexual harassment expert, on how to handle a friend or loved one who’s been accused of sexual harassment or assault:
Resist the knee-jerk impulse to defend. “When we immediately defend a person, it comes across as if we’re defending their actions,” Wright said — and it’s important to separate the essence of a person from the bad acts they may commit. Instead, try to help people understand the difference. “One does not need to be defined by a single bad act,” she said. “It doesn’t erase everything that you’ve done up to that point.”
Give yourself time to process. You’re likely percolating with some “scary, diametrically opposed and contradictory feelings,” said Borys. Allow yourself to feel those conflicting emotions without judging yourself one way or the other, Wright said. And recognize that your feelings may change over time, especially if new bad behavior comes to light, your self-reflection dredges up past offenses you didn’t call out in the moment, or the person does or doesn’t take steps toward accountability.
Talk to someone. Seek feedback from a trusted confidante, Wright suggested — preferably a person who is “relatively open-minded and nonjudgmental,” and who will “listen without immediately going to giving advice or telling you what to do.”
Ask yourself some tough questions, Borys said: If you feel obligated to stand by your friend, at what point would you no longer do that? Why draw the line there and not here? What determines your level of tolerance? Is there anything in your own personal history of harassment or abuse that could be coloring your perception of either the victim or the accused?
Take time before confronting the person. Approach them “when you feel the most capable of communicating your thoughts without engaging in blaming statements,” Wright said, and opt for in-person, phone or even handwritten communications over social media. Identify your objective for the talk: “If your goal is to get them to admit to something that they’re not ready to admit to, you’re probably not going to be very successful,” she said. “If your goal is to express to them your disappointment, then that’s something that is in your control to do.”
Don’t attack the person, Borys said, even if they rightly deserve your rage. Be authentic, using simple phrases like “I have heard this,” “You have been accused of this,” “I’m having a hard time reconciling this” and “Can you tell me what’s going on?” suggested Wright, and realize they may or may not be truthful. Listen for the “music” in between their words, Borys added: Do they seem contrite and self-reflective, or defensive and disparaging of their alleged victim(s)?
Decide whether you want to maintain the relationship. Consider the act itself — for example, a lone transgression might be more forgivable than a longstanding pattern of bad behavior, Wright said — as well as the level of your relationship with the person and the degree to which they’ve expressed remorse or tried to make amends. “If you’re the kind of person who can support a perpetrator towards moving towards accountability and better behavior, while still maintaining your own feelings of disappointment … I think we do need people who can do that,” she said. Alternatively, your friend may benefit from talking to a mental health professional.
Remember: It’s your choice to speak publicly about this. “You don’t have to answer questions that people ask you. You don’t have to justify your friendship with somebody,” said Wright. “That being said, when we don’t come forward and condemn or provide our opinion, then it has the potential to maintain that status quo — that we don’t talk about this sort of stuff, that it should all stay hidden. So there’s two sides of that coin.”
This article was originally published in November 2017 and has been updated.
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