Les Moonves has resigned as chairman and CEO of CBS, the company announced on Sunday night. Moonves and CBS had been negotiating a buyout since late July, after The New Yorker published a report by Ronan Farrow in which six women stated that Moonves had sexually harassed and physically intimidated women. The talks between the company and the embattled executive took on a new urgency Sunday after The New Yorker published a second report by Farrow in which six additional women said that Moonves “forced them to perform oral sex on him,” “exposed himself to them without their consent,” and physically intimidated them.
Per CBS’s statement on Sunday, Moonves and the company will donate $20 million to one or more organizations that support the #MeToo movement, and Moonves’s potential severance package will “depend on the results” of an “independent investigation” into the accounts of harassment. Previous reports suggested that Moonves was in line for a $100 million buyout in stock.
In a statement to The New Yorker, Moonves said he did have “consensual relations” with three of the women who had come forward, though he did not specify which three, and said that the interactions occurred before he was at CBS. He went on to say that the rest of the accounts in the article were “appalling” and “untrue.” “I have never used my position to hinder the advancement or careers of women,” the statement read. “In my 40 years of work, I have never before heard of such disturbing accusations. 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. Anyone who knows me knows that the person described in this article is not me.”
Moonves’s exit amid additional accounts of harassment and assault comes at a turbulent time for CBS. The company has been caught in a legal battle between Moonves and National Amusements Inc. president Shari Redstone over control and strategic direction at CBS, and was in the midst of filing a lawsuit against Redstone and her company. With Moonves’s exit, CBS has agreed to drop its lawsuit against National Amusements Inc., according to Deadline. CBS chief operating officer Joseph Ianniello will serve as the company’s interim CEO.
Moonves, one of the most prominent figures in entertainment, isn’t the only high-profile person from CBS who has been scrutinized during the #MeToo movement. In November, eight woman came forward to say that CBS News’s Charlie Rose groped them, made lewd phone calls, and walked around naked in front of them; all eight women were either employees or job candidates at the Charlie Rose show. He was fired that month. Additionally, as part of Farrow’s reporting on Moonves, several women said that Jeff Fager, executive producer of 60 Minutes, inappropriately touched them. Farrow’s reporting painted the picture of a toxic workplace, one built on complicity by those who did not engage in inappropriate behavior.
“I really felt like this was one of the most sexist places I’ve ever worked,” former CBS intern Sarah Johansen told Farrow.