I went web hunting this week for a two-year-old speech by now-deposed CBS chief Les Moonves. It's an ode that his Pennsylvania alma mater, Bucknell University, had scrubbed from its website as sexual-abuse allegations jettisoned the entertainment king's formerly untouchable career.
What kind of life advice would a powerful man accused by 12 different women of abuse or other misconduct offer to young adults?
The Lewisburg liberal arts school, after a prior story this summer by Farrow detailing allegations against Moonves by six other women, already had scrubbed its website of most any trace of his name.
But the trusty search engine known as the Internet Archive Wayback Machine saved the day. It turned up a copy that had resided on Bucknell's website before Moonves became persona non grata.
What I found — and this should come as no surprise at all — is a treatise to self-gratification. The commencement speech is a life guide that sells The Pursuit of Me as the be-all, end-all.
"Today," Moonves began, "wiser heads than mine here at Bucknell have generously given me a Doctor of Humane Letters."
Then, a one-liner that, only today, smacks of anything but benign humor.
"What makes this moment even sweeter for me is not only am I a genuine honorary doctor, I'm apparently a humane one as well — which actually may surprise a few of my show business colleagues in New York and Hollywood."
Moonves knew just how feared he was in an industry that, like so many, many others, is overseen by male-dominated boards and top executives. We have seen countless examples of how, time and again, these men enable corporate cultures in which accountability is scarce — as long as the top dog is minting money.
As Moonves stood there, before the Bucknell crowd in central Pennsylvania, the public did not yet know that he allegedly had forced himself upon numerous women over his career.
The kids didn't know that, when some of these women dared to rebuff his unwanted advances, the man standing before them in cap and gown would seek to blacklist them in Hollywood, as Farrow's reporting alleges. (Moonves has called the accusations "appalling" and "untrue." CBS Corp. said it would donate $20 million to #metoo groups as part of its severance agreement with its departing chairman.)
It's natural to wonder how a guy goes from studying Spanish and flaming out in organic chemistry on a quiet undergraduate campus between Harrisburg and Williamsport, to running roughshod over women while helping deliver such smash TV hits as Friends, NCIS, The Big Bang Theory.
His commencement remarks suggest a few answers. There was no utterance of anything close to "do good" or "serve others" or "be kind along the way."
Just various versions of me, me, me.
"'Dad, I have to tell you something,'" he told the kids about a chat with his father after ditching science for Spanish nearly 50 years ago. "'I'm not going to med school. And I'm not going to be a doctor.'"
His dad was skeptical.
"And he said, 'Well, what are you going to do?' And I said, 'I'm going to New York to go to acting school and become an actor.'
"My father thought about this for a while, then he said, 'Why would you want to do that?' And I replied, 'Because acting makes me happy.' "
"Happiness?" Moonves' dad retorted. "You think that's all there is to life?"
In Moonves' telling, the answer is an emphatic yes.
Need proof? Moonves made the cover of the New York Times Business section, he told the Bucknell crowd. That meant the son had been right all along.
CBS is investigating the Moonves allegations internally after the Farrow reports. Bucknell, however, wasted little time this summer in taking action. His name has been stripped from the school's website, from a prominent room on campus, and the board will meet next month to consider taking back the doctorate.
"The actions described in new reports concerning Les Moonves," the school said in a statement, "are unconscionable."