'Designing Women' creator says abuse by Les Moonves destroyed her career: 'I am happy to dance on his professional grave'

Gwynne Watkins
Writer, Yahoo Entertainment

If you ever watched CBS between 1975 and 1995, the name Linda Bloodworth Thomason should be familiar. Best known as the creator of the long-running comedy Designing Women, she also made Evening Shade (starring the late Burt Reynolds) and wrote for network hits like Rhoda and M*A*S*H. However, in the mid-1990s, Bloodworth Thomason’s name vanished from America’s television sets. What happened to the five-time Emmy nominee who’d created six shows for CBS? In a scathing Hollywood Reporter piece, Thomason has finally revealed the answer: “Les Moonves happened to me.”

Moonves, the longtime head of CBS, stepped down Sunday night following numerous allegations of sexual misconduct. His exit emboldened Bloodworth Thomason to describe the abuse she endured under his tenure. “I was never sexually harassed or attacked by Les Moonves,” she wrote in her guest column titled “Not All Harassment Is Sexual.” “My encounters were much more subtle, engendering a different kind of destruction.”

Producer Linda Bloodworth Thomason and filmmaker Shane Bitney Crone at the GLAAD Media Awards in Los Angeles in 2014. (Photo by Gabriel Olsen/Getty Images)
Linda Bloodworth Thomason (right) with (from left) Annie Potts, Delta Burke, and Dixie Carter on the set of Designing Women. (Photo: Columbia c/o Everett Collection)

Bloodworth Thomason goes on to describe how Moonves shut down her career at every turn beginning in 1995. Though she was working under what she describes as “the largest writing and producing contract in the history of CBS,” reportedly estimated to be $45 million, the network president would not allow a single pilot of hers to be produced for seven years. “When the legendary Bette Midler informed Moonves that she wanted to do a series with me, I’m told he denied her request,” she said. “When the singer Huey Lewis, whom Les had become enamored with, chose me to write a pilot for him, his contract was canceled.”

Bloodworth Thomason doesn’t know a specific reason for Moonves’s vendetta against her, but was told by someone at the network that he “especially hated Designing Women and their loud-mouthed speeches.” When she first met Moonves, she recalled, he gave her such a “menacing look” that she was reminded of the stare she got from Charles Manson as a young reporter covering his trial.

Bloodworth Thomason soon began to hear stories from colleagues about Moonves’ mistreatment of women — including the time he “shoved his tongue” into the mouth of one “iconic” CBS detective-show star after telling her that she was too old to appear on his network. (FYI, CBS was home to both Murder, She Wrote and Cagney & Lacey.) Bloodworth Thomason said Moonves even removed the portraits of historic female television stars (Lucille Ball, Mary Tyler Moore, Candace Bergen, Bea Arthur) from the walls of the CBS studio, and she believes he deliberately changed the focus of the network to male-dominated shows like The Big Bang Theory and Two-and-a-Half Men.

The writer-producer ends her editorial by channeling Julia Sugarbaker, the fierce Southern feminist played by Dixie Carter in Designing Women, and giving Moonves a profane three-word send-off.

Reaction on social media to the piece has been overwhelming, with many praising Bloodworth Thomason’s zingers.

If the information in her editorial checks out (and it does align with other accusations against Moonves), there are probably a lot of other women out there who would like to do the same.

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