For 14 years, Leslie Moonves and Julie Chen have been one of the media’s most powerful couples. Moonves, 68, is the chairman and CEO of CBS, and Chen, 48, is the host of two shows on the network, Big Brother and The Talk. Now, their relationship may be put under the media’s own microscope, as Moonves is the subject of a New Yorker investigation by Ronan Farrow that includes allegations of sexual misconduct.
On Friday, Chen released a statement supporting Moonves, calling him a “good man and loving father, devoted husband, and inspiring corporate leader.”
Chen had worked at CBS for several years before ever meeting Moonves in person. She was a newsreader on The Early Show when Moonves considered her to host Big Brother; at the time, he did not know her personally. To this day, Chen believes she was the network’s third choice to host Big Brother, but Moonves disagrees.
“I have read articles where Carson Daly said they offered [Big Brother] to him and it’s so funny because … if I bring it up: ‘You could have been married to Carson Daly!’ [Les] says, ‘It’s not true,’” Chen told BuzzFeed News.
Eventually, Moonves admitted to Chen he had asked Meredith Vieira first, but the former Today host declined.
It’s unclear exactly how Moonves and Chen connected romantically, but when they started dating, the relationship became immediate tabloid fodder. At the time, Moonves was still married to his estranged wife, Nancy Wieselfeld, who spoke publicly about their split. “Neither I nor our children have watched [CBS] in years,” she told the New York Daily News. “I don’t want to see [Chen]. It’s not healthy for me or my kids.”
In 2004, two weeks after his divorce was finalized, Moonves married Chen, and Chen said she immediately saw the effect of their marriage in the workplace. Moonves thinks that contrary to what some may assume, marrying him may have hurt Chen’s career. “It probably hasn’t helped her to be married to me in terms of that,” he told BuzzFeed News.
“I had already spent a good chunk of time working with my co-workers and then the day we got married, I saw certain people treat me differently,” Chen added.
Initially, Chen didn’t expect to be a parent—or a wife—because she was focused on her career. “I never wanted to have kids and I never wanted to get married,” Chen told BuzzFeed News. That changed, she said, when she met Moonves. The two welcomed a son, Charlie, in 2009; Moonves has three children from his previous marriage.
Chen still hosts Big Brother, and joined The Talk in 2010; she won her first Emmy, for Outstanding Writing Special Class, for the show in 2014. Moonves ended up cutting his wife’s own salary for Big Brother’s celebrity edition, which had fewer episodes. “He comes home for dinner and says in a very Godfather, mafioso-style, ‘Jules, you tell your lawyer this is not a negotiation. This is what the deal is and you’re going to accept it.’ And I said, ‘Is that the way you speak to your wife?'” Chen told The Hollywood Reporter. “He said, ‘You tell your attorney this is not a game we’re playing. Everyone’s taking a haircut. This is the only way it will make sense financially.’” That lawyer? Leslie’s brother, Jon Moonves.
Chen has said the key to their relationship is communication—because if not, things can get pretty rough. “We really don’t fight. I’m a very easygoing person—I wake up happy—and my husband, he has learned how to count to 10 backwards in his head,” she told Larry King. “He says, you have no idea how many times I bite my tongue, because the one time he didn’t, he doesn’t respond well to ice cold, I will shut off and shut down. It works. I won’t even be in the room for you to ask, what’s the matter? I will ice you out.”