CBS CEO Les Moonves on Network’s Benghazi Coverage: Siblings Reporting on Siblings is Not a Conflict of Interest

National Center for Public Policy Research Participation in CBS Shareholder Meeting Marks 6th Media Company Visit of 2014 Shareholder Meeting Season for Group

Los Angeles, CA/ Washington, D.C. – Responding to a question from National Center for Public Policy Research Free Enterprise Project Director Justin Danhof at the CBS annual shareholder meeting, CBS President and CEO Les Moonves made the astonishing claim that it is “inaccurate” to call a circumstance in which a sibling is reporting on a sibling a conflict of interest.

Danhof had asked Moonves, in part:

…In its most recent poll on the state of the media, Pew Research reported that Americans think the news media is biased, frivolous and liberal. Two out of three Americans think today’s news stories are simply inaccurate and 76 percent say the media favors one side over the other in reporting.

CBS’s coverage of the Benghazi scandal is emblematic of one of the major problems with the mainstream press – an unwillingness to speak out against the failings of progressive politicians…

As the Heritage Foundation reported this month, “CBS News President David Rhodes is the brother of Ben Rhodes, the White House deputy national security adviser who drafted the newly-released document about Benghazi just days after the Sept. 11, 2012, attack that killed four Americans.” But that information was not made public until a watchdog organization, Judicial Watch, obtained connecting documents after filing a court case.

This obvious conflict of interest is only the surface of a much deeper and more systemic issue. Then-CBS News investigative reporter Sharyl Attkisson tried to obtain these same documents, but later said CBS News was unwilling to pursue the issue. She has since left the network citing its unwillingness to engage in investigative reporting…

We don’t need Bernie Goldberg to come in here and explain how the vast majority of producers and reporters are liberal folks, but why can’t they check their politics at the door and be objective in news reporting and analysis? So my question is this: what kind of policy does CBS News have to avoid and report on conflicts of interest such as with the Benghazi cover up, and, in an country where nearly twice as many people identify as conservative than liberal, why does CBS continue only to cater to liberal Americans?

“According to CBS President and CEO Leslie Moonves, running a news group that is reporting on your own brother who happens to be a high-ranking White House official at the center of a major international controversy is not a conflict of interest,” said Danhof after the meeting. When I asked Moonves about the fact the president of CBS News’s brother authored the controversial memo in the wake of the September 11, 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, he claimed it was ‘inaccurate’ to call this a conflict of interest. This is an appalling response that fails to understand the gravity of what has occurred. Media relies on the public’s trust to remain relevant, and Moonves doesn’t seem to grasp that even the appearance of a conflict like this is a severe violation of that trust.”

Danhof continued: “Moonves completely deflected my criticism of this conflict of interest by claiming that the left has attacked ’60 Minutes’ false reporting on Benghazi claiming that CBS has, somehow, been too critical of the Obama Administration. He actually called my criticism ‘ironic.’ But I was not talking about the ’60 Minutes’ report, I was talking about the fact that CBS news had a direct conflict of interest, knew about it, one of the company’s own reporters tried to get the documents showing the conflict and CBS News stifled her efforts. CBS News has gone to extraordinary efforts to protect President Obama and his team from conflict after conflict. Benghazi is just another example.”

“Some mainstream media outlets at least have the temerity to admit liberal bias. CBS News CEO Moonves is clearly still in the denial stage. It is fair to say that when it comes to realizing the bias in his own building, he is a member of the flat-Earth society,” Danhof concluded.

The National Center for Public Policy Research participated in the shareholder meetings of five other media companies so far this year, including Disney (ABC News), the New York Times, Gannett, Graham Holdings (Post-Newsweek Stations/Slate) and Comcast (NBC/MSNBC).

The CBS shareholder meeting was held May 22 in Los Angeles, in the studios in which the “Price is Right,” and, earlier, “I Love Lucy,” have been filmed.

Danhof’s full question for CBS, as prepared for delivery, can be found here.

National Center for Public Policy Research Chairman Amy Ridenour is a CBS shareholder.

The National Center’s Free Enterprise Project is a leading free-market corporate activist group. In 2013, Free Enterprise Project representatives attended 33 shareholder meetings advancing free-market ideals in the areas of health care, energy, taxes, subsidies, regulations, religious freedom, media bias, gun rights and many more important public policy issues. The CBS meeting was the National Center’s 38th attendance at a shareholder meeting so far in 2014.

The National Center for Public Policy Research, founded in 1982, is a non-partisan, free-market, independent conservative think-tank. Ninety-four percent of its support comes from individuals, less than four percent from foundations, and less than two percent from corporations. It receives over 350,000 individual contributions a year from over 96,000 active recent contributors. Contributions are tax-deductible and greatly appreciated.


The National Center for Public Policy Research is a communications and research foundation supportive of a strong national defense and dedicated to providing free market solutions to today’s public policy problems. We believe that the principles of a free market, individual liberty and personal responsibility provide the greatest hope for meeting the challenges facing America in the 21st century.