It came down to one word: Moonves.
During Thursday night’s episode of the CBS hit reality competition “Big Brother,” longtime host Julie Chen signed off by saying, “From outside the Big Brother house … I’m Julie Chen Moonves,” Chen said. “Goodnight.”
Thursday marked Chen’s highly anticipated return to CBS just days after it was announced that her husband — the network’s chairman and chief executive Les Moonves — was stepping down following sexual misconduct allegations from at least 12 women.
Chen was originally scheduled to appear Monday on the season premiere of CBS’s “The Talk,” which she co-hosts, but skipped the talk show entirely, citing a need to “be with my family,” The Washington Post’s Emily Yahr reported. Despite Chen’s absence, the show’s other hosts still addressed the issue.
While Chen did not discuss Moonves’s situation or what was happening at CBS following his departure during the “Big Brother” episode, many perceived the rare use of her husband’s last name as a subtle show of support.
Chen, who has hosted “Big Brother” since the show debuted in 2000, does not appear to have ever called herself “Julie Chen Moonves,” despite having been married to the CBS head since 2004. In fact, Deadline reported that at the beginning of Thursday’s episode, Chen kicked things off, as usual, saying, “Good evening, I’m Julie Chen. Welcome to double eviction night!” All of Chen’s social media accounts also use her full name without “Moonves.”
Reactions to Chen’s decision were mixed, ranging from surprised to outraged.
One person tweeted, “Now THAT was a statement … I’ve NEVER heard her say ‘Moonves’ for anything.”
Others, however, viewed Chen’s name change in a less positive light.
Moonves became the center of yet another one of the entertainment industry’s #MeToo controversies in July after Ronan Farrow’s article in the New Yorker detailed sexual misconduct allegations by six women against the executive. Following the story’s publication, CBS’s board launched an investigation into Moonves, The Post reported. Over the weekend, the New Yorker published another story with six new women coming forward to allege that Moonves had exhibited improper behavior toward them, including sexual misconduct, harassment and retaliation.
In a statement late Sunday announcing his departure, Moonves denied the allegations.
“For the past 24 years it has been an incredible privilege to lead CBS’s renaissance and transformation into a leading global media company,” Moonves said. “Untrue allegations from decades ago are now being made against me that are not consistent with who I am. … I am deeply saddened to be leaving the company.”
Beyond Moonves, the network has had its fair share of #MeToo upheavals. In 2017, ex-CBS News host Charlie Rose was fired and his PBS show canceled after The Post published the accounts of eight women who accused Rose of unwanted sexual advances. More recently, “60 Minutes” executive producer Jeff Fager was also forced to leave amid claims of harassment and threatening text messages, The Post’s Elahe Izadi reported.
Though Chen has largely stayed quiet following her husband’s ousting, she did tweet a statement in July after Farrow’s first story.
“I have known my husband, Leslie Moonves, since the late ’90s, and I have been married to him for almost 14 years,” Chen wrote. “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. I fully support my husband and stand behind him and his statement.”