CBS Corporation chairman and CEO Les Moonves has resigned from the company, merely hours after a New Yorker article broke the news of six additional women claiming he had sexually harassed or assaulted them.
CBS's board of directors announced on Sunday evening Moonves is stepping down as chairman, president, and CEO, effective immediately. In a statement, the board said, "Moonves and CBS will donate $20 million to one or more organizations that support the #MeToo movement and equality for women in the workplace." The donation, which will be made immediately according to the CBS board, will come out of any severance Moonves will receive following an independent investigation. Joseph Ianniello, the COO and one of Moonves's closest advisers, according to the New York Times, will serve as president and acting CEO.
According to the New Yorker article, between the 1980s to early 2000s, Moonves allegedly forced several of the women named in the article to perform oral sex on him, exposed himself without consent, and was physically violent. Many of the women say that their careers irreparably suffered when they refused his advances, as a direct consequence of retaliation from Moonves. Others said he used a mix of intimidation and the promise of helping their career to coerce them.
All of the women echoed the reason they didn’t come forward was because they felt that their accusations would have no impact or that they would not be heard. One of the women, Phyllis Golden-Gottlieb, worked as an executive alongside Moonves in the 1980s. She old the New Yorker that she felt she couldn’t report him because she was a single mother supporting two children and couldn’t afford to lose her job, even though he forced her to perform oral sex on him and later threw her against a wall in response to a work-related disagreement.
Following the accusations, Moonves released a statement denying all of the claims lodged against him, describing them as “disturbing.” He did, however, claim that he had consensual encounters with three of the women, though he did not specify whom. None of the women claim that any of their sexual encounters with him were consensual at any point.
Variety reports that Moonves acquired legal representation when the CBS internal investigation began, and the closest he has come to acknowledging fault is expressing remorse for having “made some women uncomfortable by making advances.”
In a statement made in response to the article, the Time's Up said, in part: "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, as you sit in a room debating next steps to rectify the damage done, remember that the world is watching. We will accept nothing less than full transparency of the investigation’s findings, a commitment to real change across all levels of CBS management and no reward for Les Moonves."
This article has been updated throughout with new information.
If you have experienced sexual violence and are in need of crisis support, please call the RAINN Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).