CBS reaches deal with CEO Leslie Moonves amid new sexual harassment claims

Sergio Cunningham
September 10, 2018

On the heels of a new damning report of a pattern of sexual harassment and sexual assaults, CBS chief Les Moonves is reportedly stepping down, according to CNN and other media.

Moonves has responded to the New Yorker story, acknowledging three of the encounters but saying they were consensual.

As part of the ouster, he and CBS will donate $20 million to one or more charities supporting the #MeToo movement and equality for women in the workplace, the company said.

The donation, which will be made immediately, will come out of any severance that Moonves, one of the media world's highest paid CEOs, might eventually be given.

Chief Operating Officer Joe Ianiello will take over as interim CEO as the board searches for a replacement, according to the announcement.

The company did not rule out the possibility of Moonves receiving future benefits, stating that such a payment "will depend on the results of the independent investigation and subsequent Board investigation".

News of the deal emerged the same day the New Yorker published fresh claims from six women who allege Moonves exposed himself and used physical violence and intimidation.

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Vanity Fair also published an account on Sunday of a female doctor who reports that Moonves was inappropriate with her as well.

They say CBS has reached a deal on a package for Mr Moonves' resignation. Six more women - in addition to six others that came forward in Farrow's first piece - accuse Moonves of sexual harassment or assault in incidents between the 1980s and into the first decade of the 2000s.

CBS also settled its ongoing legal woes with National Amusements, Inc., which means there will be no merger of CBS and Viacom for at least two years. It's unclear at this time who will succeed Moonves as CBS' CEO. And I have never used my position to hinder the advancement or careers of women. Women told journalist Ronan Farrow that Moonves physically intimidated them and sometimes retaliated if they rejected his advances to damage their careers. She claims that Moonves forced her to perform oral sex and greeted her in his office during a meeting without trousers and with an erection. Redstone and her father Sumner, through their holding company National Amusements, owns the majority of voting shares in CBS and Viacom. "They felt that this is a board that has let a powerful man who makes a lot of money for this company, in the words of one person, 'get away with it'".

In August, the CBS board of directors hired two outside law firms to investigate the initial claims against Moonves, as well as other reports of sexual harassment and an inappropriate culture for women throughout CBS and the CBS News division.

"The CBS Evening News", in particular, has experienced ample turnover - the ouster of Dan Rather amid controversy, the failed Katie Couric experiment, pushing out Scott Pelley - but "60 Minutes" has remained TV's premiere newsmagazine, and changes to "CBS This Morning" have yielded significant ratings gains (even if the show remains in third place), despite the sexual-misconduct allegations that prompted Charlie Rose's exit, and additional charges of misconduct that have surrounded the news division.

"What happened to me was a sexual assault, and then I was sacked for not participating", actress and writer Illeana Douglas told the magazine in the July report.

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