CBS CEO Les Moonves is out after new allegations of sexual misconduct.
CBS chief Leslie Moonves has stepped down after six more women accused him of sexual misconduct and intimidation in a bombshell investigation published Sunday by The New Yorker.
CBS announced Moonves’ departure, which takes effect immediately, early Sunday evening.
The company’s statement, part of a larger announcement about corporate restructuring, said that Moonves and the company will donate $20 million to organizations that support the #MeToo movement, an umbrella name for efforts to combat sexual assault, harassment and inequality in the workplace that rose to prominence after last fall’s sexual misconduct allegations against film mogul Harvey Weinstein.
The money will be subtracted from from whatever severance is due Moonves – who has held the titles of chairman, president and CEO – after an external investigation into misconduct allegations from a previous New Yorker report reveals its findings.
Joseph Ianniello, an 13-year CBS veteran who has been the company’s chief operating officer since 2013, has been appointed president and acting CEO, filling Moonves’ post at least temporarily. The chairman position will remain open until the company names a permanent CEO.
The latest New Yorker story by Pulitzer Prize winner Ronan Farrow includes allegations that Moonves, 68, forced oral sex, exposed himself, committed violent acts and derailed careers in incidents that occurred from the 1980s to the early 2000s.
In the new report, the accusers, who give their names, describe a range of damning actions.
Phyllis Golden-Gottlieb, who was a Moonves colleague at Lorimar-Telepictures studio in the 1980s, describes an incident in 1986 in which she says Moonves forced her to perform oral sex.
She says Moonves suggested going to lunch on a work day, but instead drove to a secluded area where he “grabbed my head and he took it all the way down onto his penis, and pushed his penis into my mouth.”
Late last year, as the #MeToo movement rose to call out and fight back against perpetrators of sexual harassment and assault, Golden-Gottlieb filed a complaint with the Los Angeles Police Department. Farrow writes that law enforcement sources found her allegation credible, but the statute of limitations had expired.
In later incidents, Golden-Gottlieb says Moonves left his office and returned not wearing pants and that he threw her against a wall. Other women describe forced kissing, groping, propositions, with many of the encounters taking place during work time, as well as later efforts to harm careers.
Writer Linda Silverthorn, who says she had consensual sexual encounters with Moonves when she was an assistant and he was a vice president at 20th Century Fox, tells Farrow she was harassed when she arrived for a business meeting six years later, in 1990, at Warner Bros., where Moonves was an executive.
Silverthorn, who was hoping to secure a development deal, says before the conversation started, “he kissed me while we were standing up. … And then he just pulled his penis out.” She called the action “unwelcome” and said their earlier encounters did not “allow him to just grab me and pull his penis out on me when I’m there for a legitimate business meeting.”
Later, she says, Moonves told her the studio had no work opportunities for her.
Deborah Kitay, who gave Moonves massages when she worked as a massage therapist in the 1990s, says Moonves exposed himself to her and asked her to touch his penis.
In addition to the six accusers named in the story, Farrow reports that massage therapists at Washington’s Four Seasons hotel in D.C. complained of sexual misconduct by Moonves in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
“It was quite a few times that those women would come back and say, ‘I’m never going up there again,’ ” Debra Williams, who was then spa director, tells Farrow, adding that a hotel official warned Moonves to stop the behavior.
USA TODAY reached out to Daniel Petrocelli, Moonves’ lawyer, for comment after The New Yorker story was published.
Moonves, in a statement included in the report, acknowledged three encounters before his tenure at CBS, but said they were consensual and added: “The appalling accusations in this article are untrue. … And I have never used my position to hinder the advancement or careers of women. … I can only surmise they are surfacing now for the first time, decades later, as part of a concerted effort by others to destroy my name, my reputation, and my career.”
UltraViolet, a women’s advocacy organization that had called for Moonves to be fired without severance, called his departure a victory. “The era where powerful men abused and harassed women without consequence is starting to come to an end,” Shaunna Thomas, the group’s co-founder, said in a statement to USA TODAY. “No one should be forced to work in an environment where sexual harassment and abuse run wild. The norm in corporate America should be that if you abuse women, you lose your job and your golden parachute. CBS should do better.”
Time’s Up, a group that combats sexual assault, harassment and inequality in the workplace, issued a statement after the New Yorker story broke Sunday: “Six more women have made bone-chilling allegations of abuse, harassment and retaliation against Les Moonves. We believe them. … These allegations speak to a culture of toxic complicity at CBS, where the safety of women was continuously ignored to protect the careers of powerful men and the corporation. The CBS Board of Directors has an obligation to move swiftly and decisively to create a safe work environment for all and rid the company of this toxic culture.”
CBS hired two outside law firms to conduct an independent investigation shortly after the allegations broke in the original New Yorker story in July. Speculation about Moonves’ departure swirled last week with news reports that the executive was in negotiations to leave with a potential payout of $100 million, an amount that drew criticism from #MeToo advocates and others. No severance amount was cited in Sunday’s announcement.
The Moonves scandal arose amid a corporate legal battle over the future of the company, with the CBS chief fighting efforts by a major stockholder to merge the company with another media giant, Viacom. In addition to the Moonves departure, CBS announced Sunday a resolution of that dispute, which includes an agreement that the stockholder, National Amusements, won’t propose a merger for at least two years.
Read or Share this story: https://usat.ly/2CCIbDJ