The TV personality departed the daytime talk show in 2018 following allegations of sexual misconduct against her husband, former CBS exec Les Moonves
PEOPLE has reached out to CBS for comment.
Chen Moonves left The Talk in September 2018 after eight years of moderating the panel series. Her exit came days after her husband Les Moonves’ was ousted from CBS amid allegations of sexual misconduct from more than a dozen women, which he denies.
At the time of her announcement, Chen Moonves did not reference the allegations against her husband, saying instead that she needed "to “spend more time at home with my husband and our young son."
But she stood by her husband on social media, calling him “a good man and a loving father, devoted husband and inspiring corporate leader” at the time on X, formerly known as Twitter.
“He has always been a kind, decent and moral human being,” she wrote in July 2018. “I fully support my husband and stand behind him and his statement.”
But First, God is the first time Chen Moonves has spoken out about the story behind her exit. The book chronicles the spiritual journey she's been on in the wake of the scandal, something that she says has fundamentally changed her.
"Julie Chen before she found God was self-absorbed, career-minded, vain, gossipy — fun to be with, but probably kind of a shallow person," she said on GMA Monday. "Julie Chen Moonves, who now knows the Lord, is someone who wants to help others; who wants to look at everyone with a soft heart."
That faith has helped Chen Moonves reconcile her ill feelings around her departure from The Talk, she said. "I don’t know if I could have reconciled if I didn’t have God in my life."
“Chemistry is something in life, in television, it’s a relationship. It’s like a marriage that works,” she told Larry King. “If it’s not broken, why fix it? And it’s not easy to find let alone like two people — you know, you heard the rumors about Kelly Ripa and Michael Strahan, you know‚ and then to five people and five women who get along, who are quote unquote ‘talent’ in front of the camera, that’s kind of unheard of.”
Dancing with the Stars judge Carrie Ann Inaba went on to replace Chen Moonves, debuting on The Talk in January 2019. Akbar Gbaja-Biamila, Amanda Kloots, Natalie Morales and Jerry O’Connell — The Talk’s first male co-host — and Underwood, 59, currently host the show.
As for the allegations, Chen Moonves told GMA that "of course" she asked her husband at the time if they were true, and still stands by his denial. "I know my husband, you know," she said. "I know my husband."
In her book, she writes that one of the hardest parts of the controversy was having to tell their son, Charlie — 14 this month — about the claims. "I told him there were reports that were false about our family," Chen Moonves recalled to GMA. "I kept it simple. I said, ‘If you ever hear anything or read anything, you come to us first. You know this family, you know who we are. Don’t let anyone shake that.' "
When asked why she didn't reference the #MeToo and #BelieveHer movements in her book, Chen Moonves brought the conversation back to her book. "I think that’s getting off track from But First, God," she said. "I think we all go through hard times in this world and in our life. Mine are not over just because I found Christ. I think we need to keep our focus on Him."
"But First, God means God before anything and everything," she added. "What I hope people get is what I got out of starting a personal relationship with God. And I want everyone to have that because once I started that, I found peace. But most of all, I found hope."
Last November, CBS and Moonves, the network’s former president, agreed to pay $30.5 million as part of a deal with the New York attorney general’s office, which — while no admission of liability was part of the settlement — stated that CBS’s executives conspired with a Los Angeles police captain to conceal sexual assault allegations against Moonves. Moonves, 73, himself had to pay $2.5 million to stockholders who Attorney General Letitia James believed were kept in the dark initially about the allegation against him.
“I originally turned down the job,” Chen Moonves said. “I was forced to take it, so I took it. I didn't know what I was in for. I assumed it was going to be bigger than Survivor — just in a house with air conditioning.”
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Chen Moonves said she thought the reality show would “change the face of television, only to receive the worst reviews from every angle on season 1.”
The former news anchor thought season 1’s low ratings would cost her the job, but she eventually got a call that Big Brother would be back for season 2 — and so would she. Chen Moonves also hosts the Celebrity Big Brother spinoff.
Chen Moonves’s husband confirmed to her that the network originally wanted someone else as the host of Big Brother, though: broadcast journalist Meredith Viera.
"He said, 'I knew Big Brother was going to be kind of a trashy show… So, we wanted to class it up with the host,'" Chen Moonves told Entertainment Tonight, adding that "they offered it to her because she was a very well-respected name in the business."
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